Cancer Metabolic Imaging and Therapy Lab (Viswanath & Ronen Labs)

The overall vision of the laboratory is to harness insights from tumor genetics, epigenetics and biology to drive the preclinical development of novel, translational metabolic imaging biomarkers that will ultimately benefit patients by enabling the non-invasive assessment of tumor burden and response to therapy. In parallel, we aim to pinpoint metabolic vulnerabilities that can be exploited for the development of novel therapeutic agents. Our work is tightly integrated with clinical colleagues at UCSF and beyond to enable clinical translation of the imaging methods and therapeutics that emerge from our preclinical studies. We believe that the tumor metabolome is an untapped opportunity for precision medicine and that, much like the discovery of the IDH1 mutation that changed the way gliomas are viewed and treated in the last decade, there are likely to be many new developments in the future. Our goal is to take advantage of these opportunities to deliver science that makes a difference to patients.Advances in tumor genetics, epigenetics and biology can be harnessed to drive the preclinical development of novel, metabolic imaging biomarkers and therapeutic targets.

In order to achieve this vision, our approach is to: 

  1. Investigate preclinical cell and animal models of cancer that allow interrogation of particular genomic events.
  2. Develop a comprehensive understanding of the associated metabolic reprogramming using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), mass spectrometry and other relevant tools and use this combined information as the platform to.
  3. Identify innovative, translational metabolic imaging methods such as hyperpolarized 13C-MRS and deuterium metabolic imaging.
  4. Identify actionable metabolic drug targets and 5) validate our imaging biomarkers and therapeutics by pinpointing the molecular mechanisms using a variety of molecular biology and cell biology tools.


  1. January 2021: Our latest manuscript is out in Nature Communications ( We have identified 1H- and hyperpolarized 13C-MRS-based metabolic imaging biomarkers of telomere maintenance mechanisms in brain tumors.
  2. September 2020: Dr. Pavithra Viswanath has been awarded an Idea Award from the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program. The goal of the project is to identify non-invasive metabolic imaging biomarkers of TERT expression in brain tumors.
  3. September 2020: New manuscript on “Glutamate is a non-invasive metabolic biomarker of IDH1 mutant glioma response to temozolomide treatment” is published in Cancer Research.
  4. August 2020: Dr. Donghyun Hong awarded 3rd prize for his presentation on “Quantification pipeline for in vivo hyperpolarized 13C magnetic resonance spectroscopy in rats” at the ISMRM Hyperpolarized MR study section.
  5. August 2020: Dr. Celine Taglang joins our laboratory- welcome! Celine will use her strong expertise in chemistry and preclinical MR imaging to identify novel hyperpolarized 13C- and 2H-MRS-based biomarkers for brain tumor imaging.
  6. July 2020: Manuscript on “MR-detectable metabolic biomarkers of response to mutant IDH inhibition in low-grade glioma” has been published in Theranostics.
  7. July 2020: Mers Tran joins our laboratory- welcome! Mers comes to us with expertise in mass spectrometry and will focus on mass spectrometry-based metabolomics platform for brain tumors.
  8. April 2020: New manuscript on “In vivo detection of γ-glutamyl-transferase up-regulation in glioma using hyperpolarized γ-glutamyl-[1-13-C]glycine” has been published in Scientific Reports.
  9. February 2020: Dr. Pavithra Viswanath and Dr. Sabrina Ronen were awarded an NIH R01 grant focused on identifying telomere maintenance mechanisms in brain tumors.
  10. November 2019:  Dr. Pavithra Viswanath was awarded  the  2019 Women in Neuro-Oncology Basic/Translational Science Research Award at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuro-Oncology in Phoenix, Arizona for her work on "Imaging a hallmark of cancer: hyperpolarized 13C-magnetic resonance spectroscopy can non-invasively monitor TERT expression in low-grade gliomas in vivo"
  11. October 2019: Dr. Noriaki Minami joins our laboratory- welcome! Noriaki is a neurosurgeon with strong expertise in glioma biology. His work is focused on identifying metabolic biomarkers of TERT expression in brain tumors.


We have openings for motivated postdoctoral scholars and staff research associates to join our laboratory.

Postdoctoral opportunities:


A complete list of publications can be found at the UCSF profile pages for Dr. Pavithra Viswanath and Dr. Sabrina Ronen under "Publications."

Featured Publication  (click on the image to read the full document)



Dr. Pavithra ViswanathDr. Pavithra Viswanath, Principal Investigator

Dr. Viswanath is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at UCSF. She received her Ph. D in Biochemistry at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. She loves interdisciplinary science that bridges biology with advances in biomedical engineering and drug discovery. She believes that a deep understanding of cancer genomics and metabolism can be leveraged for the identification of imaging biomarkers and therapeutic targets that have the potential to enhance patient lives by improving current methods for tumor diagnosis, stratification, therapy and treatment response assessment. Her research group consists of a motley team of biomedical engineers, chemists, neurosurgeons and biologists, who work collaboratively to elucidate tumor metabolic reprogramming and pinpoint how these alterations can be exploited for imaging and therapy. Dr. Viswanath is the recipient of NIH R01 and US Department of Defense grants. She was awarded the 2019 Women in Neuro-Oncology Basic/Translational Science Research Award from the Society for Neuro-Oncology. In her free time, she loves reading, more reading, yoga, meditation and playing board games with her husband and kids.

Dr. Sabrina RonenDr. Sabrina Ronen, Principal Investigator

Sabrina Ronen received her Ph.D. from The Weizmann Institute of Science in 1991. She was subsequently on the faculty of the Institute of Cancer Research in London England, and The MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas, before joining UCSF in 2007. Her research is now focused on using magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging for noninvasive monitoring of oncogenesis and response to treatment, with a particular interest in metabolic imaging of brain tumors

Anne Marie GillespieMs. Anne Marie Gillespie, Lab Manager

Anne Marie graduated with an MSc from NUIG Ireland. Anne Marie has previously worked with Dr Charles Epstein and Dr Sam Hawgood in UCSF.


Dr. Georgios BatsiosDr. Georgios Batsios, Postdoctoral Scholar

Georgios is a transplant from a small country town in Northern Greece. After acquiring his diploma in Electrical and Computer Engineering from National Technical University of Athens, Greece, he moved to Switzerland to advance his studies. There he worked as a researcher in ETH Zurich pursuing his PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a focus on MR Imaging. As a PhD candidate, he attended and presented at the 2015 WMIC conference in Hawaii. It was there that he learned about an opportunity to work as a postdoc at UCSF. A connection was made and he officially joined the Ronen and Viswanath laboratory at UCSF in July of 2016 as a postdoc. His research now focuses on advancing preclinical metabolic imaging of cancer. Specifically, he is developing methods to investigate the metabolism of brain tumor models using 1H, 2H and 13C MR imaging and spectroscopic techniques. Outside the lab he enjoys baking, hiking, strolling the farmer's market, long zoom chats with his family and exploring the beauty of nature with his fiancé.

Dr. Donghyun HongDr. Donghyun Hong, Postdoctoral Scholar

Donghyun Hong, Ph D, is a postdoctoral scholar in the UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging. He is a magnetic resonance (MR) physicist with an interest in non-invasive biomarker discovery for brain tumors using MRI and MRS. Dr. Hong earned a BE in electrical and biomedical engineering from Yonsei University, Korea, an MS in bioimaging from Boston University and a PhD in MR Physics from Radboud University, Netherlands under the supervision of Professor David G. Norris. In 2019, he joined the Ronen-Viswanath group.

Dr. Noriaki MinamiDr. Noriaki Minami, Postdoctoral Scholar

Noriaki Minami is a postdoctoral scholar at UCSF. His main interest is to understand brain tumor metabolism using MR spectroscopy, which has the potential to provide better diagnostic biomarkers for brain tumor. Before starting the current project at UCSF, he worked as a neurosurgeon in Japan for 6 years. His goal is to find new biomarkers for glioma in preclinical models, and then apply it to clinical settings in the future.

Dr. Celine TaglanDr. Celine Taglang, Postdoctoral Scholar

Celine obtained her PhD in Chemistry at Paris Saclay University and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). She developed an enantiospecific C-H activation reaction followed by deuterium incorporation at stereogenic centers, using ruthenium nanoparticles and hydrogen gas. Celine joined UCSF in 2016 to use her experience in medicinal chemistry and radiochemistry to improve 13C labeling and hyperpolarization of biocompatible agents for MRI with applications from enzymatic activity to animal models. Since August 2020, her research in the Viswanath Lab has focused on deuterium magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging with intravenous infusion of nonradioactive 2H-labeled substrates to better reveal metabolism in the brain of animal models and differences between normal brain and tumor tissue. She also likes yoga and challenged herself in 2018 for the San Francisco Marathon. Next step? The NYC marathon!

Mers TranMers Tran, Staff Research Associate

Mers (they/them) was born and raised in San Jose, CA and received their BS in Environmental Chemistry at UC San Diego. They are currently a Staff Research Associate in the Ronen/Viswanath lab as the liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) operations specialist. In their spare time, they enjoy dancing, rock climbing, and trying new creative crafts.


Principal Investigators

Associate Professor
Associate Adjunct Professor
Professor Emeritus
Director of Precision Imaging for Cancer and Therapeutics
Professor in Residence