Molecular Imaging Lab (Flavell Lab)

The overall goal of the Molecular Imaging Lab (Flavell Lab) is the development of new molecular imaging probes for better risk stratification and monitoring of response to therapy in patients with cancer. The Molecular Imaging Lab focuses on two modalities, positron emission tomography (PET) and hyperpolarized 13C magnetic resonance imaging. One particular area of interest is studying the microenvironment in cancer and its role in prognosis. Specifically, alterations in tissue pH, metal homeostasis, and immune infiltration are current active targets. 

molecular imaging probes

Research Projects

Project 1

Methodology development for hyperpolarized 13C imaging of tissue pH and other alterations in the tissue microenvironment in cancer. In this strategy, a 13C labeled probe which has a predictable change in change in chemical shift in response to pH is hyperpolarized and administered. By comparison to an ex-vivo standard curve the pH can be determined. One of the probes being actively pursued is 13C, 15N ACES, one of Good’s buffers, with others in development.

Hyperpolarized 13C imaging

Project 2

This strategy relies on the use of 18F-FDG derivatives, termed FDG amines, which are protected with a caging group which decomposes upon exposure to mildly acidic conditions, such as seen in a solid tumor. The liberated 18F-FDG can then be absorbed into the adjacent cancer cell.

18F-FDG derivatives


Robert Flavell, MD, PhDRobert Flavell, MD, PhD
Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor in Residence




Dave KorenchanDave Korenchan
Postdoctoral Fellow
[email protected]



Kristina LiuKristina Liu
Junior Specialist
[email protected]




Paola PerezPaola Perez Rivera
UCSF Medical Student
[email protected]




Celine TaglangCeline Taglang
Postdoctoral Fellow
[email protected]



Sinan Wang, PostdocSinan Wang
Postdoctoral Fellow
[email protected]




Andrew Hong
UC Berkeley Student






Henry Li, MSBI Graduate StudentHenry Li
MSBI Graduate Student




Justin Yu, MSBI Graduate StudentJustin Yu
MSBI Graduate Student





We are actively recruiting postdoctoral fellows and graduate students (pdf) with interests in molecular imaging, positron emission tomography, chemistry and radiochemistry, and hyperpolarized 13C MRI. 

Please contact Dr. Flavell with inquiries: [email protected]


June 2018

Congratulations to Dave for his poster presentations entitled "Hyperpolarized In vivo pH Imaging Reveals Grade-Dependent Interstitial Acidification” and "Mitigating Chemical Exchange Effects in Advanced Pulse Sequences for pH Imaging with Hyperpolarized [13C]bicarbonate”, and Celine for her poster presentation entitled: "Late-stage deuteration of 13C-enriched substrates for T1 prolongation in hyperpolarized 13C MRI” at the 2018 International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine meeting in Paris.

Congratulations to Paola for receiving the Research Initiative to Promote Diversity in Radiology (RIDR) summer fellowship! 

Congratulations to Andrew for receiving the SURF Rose Hills Independent Fellowship!

May 2018

Congratulations Celine on publication of her new article, "Late-stage deuteration of 13C-enriched substrates for T1 prolongation in hyperpolarized 13C MRI” in Chemical Communications"

Dr. Flavell was awarded an NIH R21 grant entitled: “Application of hyperpolarized 13C interstitial pH imaging to risk stratification in prostate cancer

November 2017

Dr. Flavell was Awarded a UCSF Prostate Cancer Program New Directions in Prostate Cancer Research Award.

Dr. Flavell gave a lecture at the Osher mini medical school for the public entitled “Cancer Detection and Treatment through Molecular Imaging: Theranostics at UCSF.” The lecture can be viewed on the following website:

Congratulations to Dave on an excellent poster presentation at the UCSF Prostate Cancer Program retreat!

October 2017

Congrats to Celine, Dave and Sinan on excellent oral presentations at the Precision Imaging in Cancer Therapy (PICT) symposium, and poster presentations at the UCSF Department of Radiology Research Symposium!

July 2017

Congratulations to our master’s degree graduates Justin Yu and Henry Li for their excellent thesis and presentations! Justin presented on “Optimization of pH imaging methodology for hyperpolarized 13C MRI” and Henry presented on “Detection of prostate cancer through molecular imaging of zinc using hyperpolarized 13C MRI”.

June 2017

Dr. Flavell received the Prostate Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award.

April 2017
Congratulations to Dave Korenchan for his Magna Cum Laude award at the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine meeting for his presentation entitled "Chemical Shift Imaging of pH with Hyperpolarized [2-13C,D10] Diethylmalonic Acid", and “Hyperpolarization Methods & Equipment for Targeting Biological Mechanisms Study Group Abstract Award for best oral presentation”.

March 2017
Dr. Flavell was awarded the Howard S. Stern research award by the Society of Abdominal Radiology for his proposal entitled “Imaging of Zn metabolism using hyperpolarized 13C magnetic resonance imaging in prostate cancer".

February 2017
Dr. Robert Flavell was awarded an American Cancer Society individual research grant.

January 2017
Congratulations to Celine Taglang for being awarded a Department of Defense Postdoctoral Early Investigator Research Award.

September 2016
Dr. Robert Flavell was awarded a Department of Defense Physician Research Training Grant, entitled “Detection of aggressive prostate tumors using novel PET and hyperpolarized 13C probes targeting interstitial acidity.


Featured Publications

Korenchan DE, Taglang C, von Morze C, Blecha JE, Gordon JW, Sriram R, Larson PE, Vigneron DB, VanBrocklin HF, Kurhanewicz J, Wilson DM, Flavell RR. Dicarboxylic acids as pH sensors for hyperpolarized 13C magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging. Analyst, 2017. DOI: 10.1039/C7AN00076F 

Flavell R.R.; Westphalen, A.C.; Liang, C.; Sotto, C.C.; Noworolski, S.M.; Vigneron, D.B.; Wang, Z.J.; Kurhanewicz, J. Abnormal findings on multiparametric prostate magnetic resonance imaging predict disease progression in patients with low risk prostate cancer managed with active surveillance, Abdom Imaging. 2014 Oct; 39(5):1027-35.

Flavell, R.R., Korenchan, D; von Morze, C; Van Criekinge, M; Sriram, R.; Gordon, J.; Subramaniam S.; Bok, R.; Blecha, J.; Vigneron, D.; Keshari K.; Larson, P.; Kurhanewicz J.; Wilson, D.M.  Application of Good’s buffers to pH imaging using hyperpolarized 13C-MRI Chem. Comm. 2015. 51, 14119-22.

Flavell R.R., Truillet C., Regan M.K., Ganguly T., Blecha J.E., Kurhanewicz J., VanBrocklin H.F., Keshari K.R., Chang C.J., Evans M.J., Wilson D.M. Caged [18F]FDG glycosylamines for imaging acidic tumor microenvironment using positron emission tomography, Bioconjugate chem. 2016, 27, 170-8. 

Flavell, R.R., Naeger, D.M., Mari Aparici, C., Hawkins, R.A., Pampaloni, M.H., Behr, S.C. Low FDG avidity malignancy on PET/CT: Pitfalls and Prognostic Significance Radiographics 2016, 36, 293-4.

Korenchan D.E., Flavell R.R., Baligand C., Sriram R., Neumann K., Sukumar S., VanBrocklin H., Vigneron D.B., Wilson D.M., Kurhanewicz J., Dynamic nuclear polarization of biocompatible 13C-enriched carbonates for in vivo pH imaging. Chem Comm., 2016, 52, 3030-3.

Flavell R.R., Wilson D.M., Behr S.C., Recent developments in combined PET/MRI. Curr. Radiol. Rep., 2016, 4(5) 1-10. 

Carroll V., Truillet C., Shen B., Flavell R.R., Shao X, Evans M.J., VanBrocklin H.F., Scott P., Chin F., Wilson D.M. [11C]Ascorbic and [11C]Dehydroascorbic acid, an endogenous redox pair for sensing reactive oxygen species using positron emission tomography. Chem. Comm. 2016, 52, 4888-90.

Flavell R.R., Behr S.C., Mabray M.C., Henandez-Pampaloni M., Naeger D.M., Detecting pulmonary nodules in lung cancer patients using whole body FDG PET/CT, high resolution lung reformat of FDG PET/CT, or diagnostic breath hold chest CT. Acad Radiol 2016, in press.

Liu W., Truillet C., Flavell R.R., Brewer T.F., Evans M.J., Wilson D.M., Chang C.J. A reactivity based [18F]FDG probe for in vivo formaldehyde imaging using positron emission tomography. Chem. Sci. 2016, 7, 5503-7.

Complete list of publications:

Research gate site:

PET scan detect acidic tumors

PET imaging using 18F-FDG

Director of Molecular Imaging Lab

Assistant Professor
Assistant Director, Nuclear Medicine Residency & Fellowship Programs
Asst Professor in Residence