Charles Cunningham PhD, University of Toronto
Photo of Dr. Charles Cunningham
Contact Info
T: (416) 480-5021
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, Room M7-613
Toronto, ON, M4N 3M5
Research Interests
Biomedical Imaging, Cancer Mechanisms and Models, Cardiovascular Sciences, Image-Guided Therapy and Device Development


Research Synopsis

Metabolic Imaging

We are primarily focused on making images and measurements using the enzymes within living tissue, and studying how these change in disease. A recently developed method is used in which 13C-labeled biomolecules are prepared with a magnetic signal so they can be imaged using MRI. To do this, dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) is applied in order to magnetize concentrated samples of a substrate, such as13C-labeled pyruvate, and the resulting solution is injected in vivo.

This new form of MRI contrast agent exhibits a change in frequency after its molecular structure has been changed. This can occur when carbon-13 labeled substrates are metabolized by cells, allowing direct imaging of metabolic enzyme reactions in living tissue. One important question being investigated is whether this new measurement provides the oncologist with more information about aggressive cancers, visible through increased lactate signal, as well as improved treatment options by enabling focal therapy and treatment response measurements. We are also interested in the metabolic characterization of damaged heart muscle in order to detect the early stages of heart failure and select therapies, as well as metabolic characterization of cancer as a possible method for staging and for measuring response to therapy.

In addition a growing segment of the laboratory is investigating the fabrication of disposable medical devices, such as catheters and needles, that are designed to be useful in MRI-guided procedures.

This project has a strong commercialization component.

Graduate Students

Hirad Karimi
Justin Lau

Publications and Awards

View PubMed search of this faculty member's recent publications.

Recent Publications

  • Multichannel receiver coils for improved coverage in cardiac metabolic imaging using prepolarized (13) C substrates. Dominguez Viqueira W, Lau AZ, Chen AP, Cunningham CH. Magn Reson Med. 2012 Aug 20. doi: 10.1002/mrm.24460.
  • Simultaneous investigation of cardiac pyruvate dehydrogenase flux,Krebs cycle metabolism and pH, using hyperpolarized [1,2-(13)C2]pyruvate in vivo. Chen AP, Hurd RE, Schroeder MA, Lau AZ, Gu YP, Lam WW, Barry J, Tropp J, Cunningham CH. NMR Biomed. 2012 Feb;25(2):305-11. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1749. Epub 2011 Jul 19.
  • Spin tagging for hyperpolarized ¹³C metabolic studies. Chen AP, Hurd RE, Cunningham CH. J Magn Reson. 2012 Jan;214(1):319-23. doi 10.1016/j.jmr.2011.10.007. Epub 2011 Oct 19.
  • Spectral-spatial excitation for rapid imaging of DNP compounds. Lau AZ, Chen AP, Hurd RE, Cunningham CH. NMR Biomed. 2011 Oct;24(8):988-96. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1743. Epub 2011 Jul 12.
  • (13)C MR reporter probe system using dynamic nuclear polarization.Chen AP, Hurd RE, Gu YP, Wilson DM, Cunningham CH. NMR Biomed. 2011Jun;24(5):514-20. doi: 10.1002/nbm.1618. Epub 2010 Dec 8.
  • Analysis of cancer metabolism by imaging hyperpolarized nuclei: prospects for translation to clinical research. Kurhanewicz J, Vigneron DB, Brindle K, Chekmenev EY, Comment A, Cunningham CH, Deberardinis RJ, Green GG, Leach MO, Rajan SS, Rizi RR, Ross BD, Warren WS, Malloy CR. Neoplasia. 2011 Feb;13(2):81-97.
  • Design of spectral-spatial outer volume suppression RF pulses for tissue specific metabolic characterization with hyperpolarized 13C pyruvate. Chen AP, Leung K, Lam W, Hurd RE, Vigneron DB, Cunningham CH. J Magn Reson. 2009 Oct;200(2):344-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jmr.2009.06.021. Epub 2009 Jul 3.
  • Pulse sequence for dynamic volumetric imaging of hyperpolarized metabolic products. Cunningham CH, Chen AP, Lustig M, Hargreaves BA, Lupo J, Xu D, Kurhanewicz J, Hurd RE, Pauly JM, Nelson SJ, Vigneron DB. J Magn Reson. 2008 Jul;193(1):139-46. doi: 10.1016 j.jmr.2008.03.012. Epub 2008 Mar 23.