SapC-DOPS and fluorescence may provide path to better brain scans


Xiaoyang Qi, PhD, a researcher at the UC Brain Tumor Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and UC Cancer Institute, is exploring a new technology that causes brain cancer cells to fluoresce and thereby become visible in brain scans.  Dr. Qi has used an earlier discovery known as SapC-DOPS to serve as a transport vesicle to deliver bio-fluorescence agents directly to brain tumors in animal models.

The research is important because glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive brain cancer, is diffuse and difficult to image. Glioblastoma, unlike a solid tumor, can have boundaries that are virtually undetectable. It can spread out like a sheen of oil on water.

Finding a better way to image the brain cancer could lead to more targeted treatment strategies.

Dr. Qi, Associate Professor of Hematology-Oncology at UC, is internationally recognized for designing the nanovesicle SapC-DOPS, short for saposin-C dioleoylphosphatidylserine, while working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 2002. SapC-DOPS is a drug that has been shown in preclinical studies to cause several types of cancer cells – including brain cancer cells – to self-destruct, without causing harm to healthy cells or tissues.

SapC-DOPS now has the potential to answer not one, but two, of the most urgent questions in brain cancer: how to acquire a good picture of the cancer, and how to treat it. Finding the tumor at an earlier stage, Dr. Qi says, could enable doctors to treat it sooner and more effectively. Although the research was conducted in animal models that were injected with a SapC-DOPS vesicle that contained illuminating agents, Dr. Qi says it soon could be tested in human populations using MRI and PET imaging.

Dr. Qi’s research was published earlier this year in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging and the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

Dr. Qi is a member of the Cincinnati Cancer Institute, a collaboration of UC, UC Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Funding for this research came from a New Drug State Key Project, the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health and the Mayfield Education and Research Foundation. Collaborators in the research included Kati LaSance, Director of the Vontz Core Imaging Lab, and Patrick Winter, PhD, of the Imaging Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s.

— Cindy Starr

  • Print This Page
  • Make an Appointment: Schedule Now
  • Sign up for our newsletter!
  • Hope Stories

    • Lynne’s Story: Brain Metastasis

      Lynne's Story: Brain MetastasisSemiretired and working part-time at a restaurant, Lynne knew something was amiss when she looked at the cash register and then struggled to make her hands produce the correct amount of change. Could she have suffered a stroke? Lynne pushed the...
    • Brian’s Story: Meningioma

      Brian's Story: Meningioma “Carefree” is the word Brian uses to describe his life back then. He was 39 years old, happily married and the father of three children under the age of 5. “Life was busy, but that felt normal,” he says, reflecting. “The only...
    • Jim’s Story: Acromegaly / Pituitary Tumor

      Jim's Story: Acromegaly / Pituitary Tumor Four years later, Jim’s story just keeps getting better. Because four years after being treated for a pituitary tumor at the UC Brain Tumor Center, Jim continues to feel better and better. The size of his head has gone down....
    • Jerry’s Story: Spinal Tumor

      Jerry's Story: Spinal Tumor On an ordinary day in February 2009, John M. Tew, MD, got one of the true surprises of his career. He was seeing patients in his Mayfield Clinic office on the University of Cincinnati medical campus when an unexpected guest...
    • Bob’s Story: Recurrent Glioblastoma

      Bob's Story: Recurrent Glioblastoma Glioblastomas come back. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but they always come back. “That’s the...
    • Troy’s Story: Proton Therapy for Brain Cancer

      Troy's Story: Proton Therapy for Brain Cancer Troy Witt, 65, a London, Kentucky resident and a self-proclaimed "country boy,” says he loves his family, fishing, woodworking and riding on his tractor. But all of these activities have been put on hold since spring 2016 when Witt’s...
    • Troy’s Testimonial: ‘Out of 5 Stars, They Get 6’

      Troy’s Testimonial: ‘Out of 5 Stars, They Get 6’ Troy Sheldon has something to say, and he’d like...