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Dr. Yue is a Research Scientist and Lab Head at the Department of Radiology, Nemours Children’s Health, Delaware, and a Research Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Thomas Jefferson University. He also holds an affiliated Assistant Professor position at the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Delaware.

Dr. Yue’s lab focuses on developing radioactive imaging agents for preclinical research and clinical translation in pediatric diseases. He has successfully translated several radiotracers into clinical investigations. Dr. Yue received the NIH/NIBIB Trailblazer Award, DE CTR ACCEL pilot award in 2021, Delaware INBRE Faculty Start-up award, and Nemours supplemental funds in 2022.

  1. What is the importance of this research?

This research has great potential to improve the survival rate of pediatric cancer patients. Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a complex autosomal dominant neurocutaneous disorder with an estimated incidence of 1 per 2600 to 3000 births. The malignant form of NF1 is the leading cause of mortality in NF1 patients, with a dismal overall 5-year survival rate. Diagnosing NF1 and differentiating malignant from benign tumors is critical for therapeutic intervention and prognosis. Conventional morphometric imaging techniques are challenging to identify malignant degeneration reliably. Therefore, we aim to develop a functional imaging strategy with a tiny amount of radioactive imaging agent which would noninvasively and quantitatively detect NF1 and differentiate malignant lesions from their benign counterpart in real-time.

2. Why did you want to conduct this research?

My research is driven by Nemours’ mission to improve the health of children through care and programs not readily available. We have built a unique neurotheranostics program integrating multiple imaging modalities for diagnosis, monitoring, and stratification of pediatric diseases. Successful project implementation will establish the essential groundwork for further investigation and clinical translation of the novel imaging agents in patients with NF1 to aid in differentiation, early institution of therapy, and monitoring of treatment.

3. How does this research relate to your other work?

My research interest focuses on developing radioactive imaging agents, particularly positron emission tomography (PET) radiotracers, integrated with other traditional imaging modalities for implementation in preclinical research and bench to bedside clinical translation for brain disorders and other diseases. I was the lead scientist in the clinical translation of a fluorine-18 labeled radiopharmaceutical for first-in-human studies in neurodegenerative populations when I was a Staff Scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. I am excited to utilize the intellectual richness and diversity of Nemours to expand my research and enhance the quality of life in pediatrics.

4. What aspect of the DE-CTR was most helpful to you for this research?

The Junior Investigator Network (JIN) is an interactive platform to identify potential grant opportunities, exchange research ideas, and learn how to develop a full proposal. For my funded DE-CTR ACCEL pilot project, I received insightful comments from the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) Core and Professional Development (PD) Core. The JIN also gave me a fantastic opportunity to introduce the primary rationale of PET to make more researchers have a better understating of the bench-to-bedside clinical translation of radioactive imaging agents. In addition, the DE-CTR ACCEL Flight School provided an excellent mock review environment. We developed specific aims and received feedback from peers and senior scientists so that we could submit strong specific aims. In addition, the DE-CTR ACCEL bridged external and interdisciplinary collaborations and encouraged the scientists to participate in community-engaged research.

5. What advice would you give to a junior researcher?

Develop your research interest and follow your passion for promoting your career, do not be afraid to try. The DE-CTR ACCEL is a great platform to engage in community research and education, seek collaborations, sharpen your vision, and broaden the junior researchers’ scope.