Small Animal Cancer Imaging (SACI)


Joseph Ackerman, PhD
Joel Garbow, PhD
Richard Laforest, PhD
Kooresh Shoghi, PhD
Monica Shokeen, PhD, MBA

Small animal models such as mice, rats, and hamsters are widely used throughout the cancer research community at Siteman Cancer Center (SCC). Indeed, with the revolution in molecular biology, transgenic animal models – in particular mice – have become an indispensable part of the cancer research armamentarium. Animal models of cancer, however, can present the researcher with a quandary as to how to best analyze the effect of interest. Often, one wishes to follow each subject of a population sample over a time course during which various procedures are performed. Invasive and/or destructive procedures – especially those that require sacrifice of the subject – are not viable research options. Thus, nondestructive imaging procedures, such as those offered by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT), single photon emission CT (SPECT), optical imaging (OI), and optical tomography (OT) are especially valuable. Further, MRI, PET, and CT protocols developed and validated with small animal models can be translated to the clinic where such scanners are widely available and in routine use.

The SCC’s Small Animal Cancer Imaging (SACI) shared resource (SR) was initially established via funding through the NCI’s Small Animal Imaging Resource Program (SAIRP). The NCI program was created precisely to address the need for nondestructive image analysis of small animal laboratory models of disease and pathology, with an emphasis on cancer. The goals of SACI are to provide the physical and intellectual infrastructure necessary to support state-of-the-art, small animal (preclinical) imaging for cancer research in support of SCC research programs. Over the years, SACI has been enormously productive, as evidenced by the ~ 100 peer-reviewed journal articles that have been authored by SCC members from 2015-2019 that have utilized SACI resources. This seamless integration of SACI within the fabric of the SCC’s overall cancer research community enhances the productive use of resources and facilitates collaborative interactions between researchers from disparate cancer research disciplines. This is accomplished through three specific aims.

Aim 1: Provide and maintain state-of-the-art preclinical imaging instruments to enable cutting-edge preclinical imaging research. SACI, through Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology’s (MIR) Research Imaging Facilities (RIF), maintains the latest preclinical imaging instruments to support the research needs of SCC investigators. The NI component of SACI administers and maintains preclinical PET, PET/CT, PET/MRI/MRS, Cerenkov, and SPECT instruments. The MRI Component of SACI administers and maintains three high-field MRI/MRS scanners, a GE SPINLab for generating hyperpolarized species for metabolism studies, a benchtop MR spectrometer, and a benchtop MR relaxometer. The OI Component of SACI administers and maintains an extensive range of OI technologies for both high-throughput and longitudinal studies including bioluminescence and fluorescence imaging. All instruments undergo routine and rigorous QA/QC to ensure quantitative accuracy.

Aim 2: Provide resources for specialized preclinical procedures, technology expertise, protocol development, and data analysis. SACI technical staff have a combined 75+ years of experience in preclinical procedures and small animal imaging to support the research needs of SCC investigators. SACI leaders are well-established investigators who collaborate routinely with SCC members to provide technology expertise, consultation in protocol development, and development of study designs. SACI also provides resources, both software and hardware, and training for self-guided data analysis, and its leaders and staff are available to aid in interpretation of image datasets.

Aim 3: Engage SCC investigators and Research Programs to advance the utility of preclinical imaging in cancer research through cross-programmatic symposia, educational seminars, and training. SACI leaders provide high-level consultation and education to promote collaborations, and engage with SCC members to provide training in the interpretation of imaging biomarkers, aid in the preparation of manuscripts, and collaborate in grant submissions. SACI, in close association with the SCC Oncologic Imaging Program (OIP), (co-)sponsors numerous educational seminars and workshops to highlight the utility of preclinical imaging in cancer research and consult with thought-leaders in translational imaging.

Overall, SACI activities support the research needs of SCC investigators to enable cancer detection; development and optimization of image-based biomarkers; assessment of therapeutic efficacy, characterization/pharmacokinetics of therapeutics (molecular-, radio- or immuno-); and translation of radiotracers in support of diagnostic or therapeutic clinical trials.

LOCATION: Clinical Sciences Research Building (CSRB), Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, and East Building

PRICING: Please contact the core for current pricing of services offered.


Administrative Assistant
Robert Massa – 314-747-1364; [email protected]

Preclinical PET Imaging Facility
Richard Laforest – 314-362-8423; [email protected]
Kooresh Shoghi – 314-362-8990; [email protected]

Molecular Imaging Center
Monica Shokeen – 314-362-8979; [email protected]

Small Animal Magnetic Resonance Facility
Joseph Ackerman – 314-935-6582, 314-747-1212; [email protected]
Joel Garbow – 314-362-9949; [email protected]
James Quirk – 314-362-3875; [email protected]

Small-Animal Cancer MRI Pilot Study Program

The MRI Component of the Small-Animal Cancer Imaging (SACI) Shared Resource uses annual funding from the Siteman Cancer Center (SCC) to subsidize cancer imaging studies performed through the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology’s (MIR) Small-Animal MR Facility (SAMRF).  This subsidy provides (i) a $25/scanner-hour reduction in the prime-time recharge rate for all SCC-related MRI studies and (ii) funds to cover personnel costs for selected pilot studies (including data acquisition and basic image analysis).  The purpose of the pilot program is to provide preliminary feasibility data in support of new, otherwise unfunded projects, that have the potential for future funding.  The program is not intended to support projects that already have research funding or routine service work that is not directed at securing additional future funding.

Principal investigators may apply for funds to cover personnel costs for up to 25 hours of MR data acquisition.  Funds are limited and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Principal investigators are still responsible for SAMRF scanner recharge costs; e.g., $85/scanner-hour as of FY 2024 after the SACI-provided $25/scanner-hour reduction for cancer-related research projects.  A description of SAMRF and its charging schedule (see FAQs) may be found at URL

Interested principal investigators are strongly encouraged to discuss their project with SACI MRI Component leadership — Joseph Ackerman ([email protected]), Joel Garbow ([email protected]) or Jim Quirk ([email protected]) — prior to submitting a pilot funding request.  Applicants should write a single paragraph providing a brief description of the imaging experiments and goals (e.g., longitudinal anatomic imaging to monitor tumor growth; diffusion weighted imaging to follow therapeutic response) and specific plans for seeking additional substantial funding in support of small-animal cancer research imaging.  The description should include a brief justification for the number of scanner hours requested.  Applications, which are accepted on a rolling basis, should be submitted electronically to Joseph Ackerman.  Individuals will be informed within two weeks of the decision on their request.

NIH Public Access Policy

As of April 7, 2008, the NIH requires investigators with a publication using Siteman (or other NIH-funded) shared resources to submit (or have submitted for them) their final, peer reviewed manuscripts to PubMed Central(PMC) upon acceptance of publication, to be made publicly available within 12 months of publication. Many journals automatically submit these for authors, but Washington University also has assistance available through the Becker Medical Library. Please see,upon%20acceptance%20of%20the%20publication or for more information.

Publication Acknowledgement

If research supported by the Small Animal Cancer Imaging shared resource results in publication, please acknowledge this support by including the following in your publication(s):

We thank the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO., for the use of the Small Animal Cancer Imaging shared resource, which provided __________ service. The Siteman Cancer Center is supported in part by an NCI Cancer Center Support Grant #P30 CA091842.