Kai Chen, PhD

Associate Professor Of Research Radiology

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Dr. Chen received a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from Nankai University in China in 2001. He then moved to the United States where he performed his postdoctoral research in the Department of Radiology at Harvard Medical School. In 2005, Dr. Chen joined Siemens Healthcare USA, Inc. as a research scientist, where he led several projects spanning preclinical discovery to clinical investigation. He was promoted to Group Leader in 2006 and Project Manager in 2008. In the summer of 2009, Dr. Chen moved to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where he was part of the Intramural Research Program team of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). In 2010, Dr. Chen joined the USC as a faculty member.

The research interests in Dr. Chen’s laboratory focus on the development of novel theranostic agents for disease diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Chen has published over 70 peer-reviewed articles, and he is a co-inventor of 20 International and US patents. He has served as a reviewer for a number of funding agencies. Dr. Chen has also served as an active reviewer for over 70 research journals. In addition, he sits on the Editorial Board of 7 peer-reviewed international journals. Dr. Chen has been elected as the Vice President-Elect for the Radiopharmaceutical Sciences Council (RPSC) of Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).


  • USC Stevens Center for Innovation: Technology Commercialization Award, 2018
  • Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI): Center for Molecular Imaging Innovation and Translation (CMIIT) Young Investigator Award, 2013


  • Synthesis and Preclinical Evaluation of 22-[18F]Fluorodocosahexaenoic Acid as a Positron Emission Tomography Probe for Monitoring Brain Docosahexaenoic Acid Uptake Kinetics ACS Chem Neurosci. 2023 Dec 20; 14(24):4409-4418. . View in PubMed
  • Tracking Docetaxel-Induced Cellular Proliferation Changes in Prostate Tumor-Bearing Mice with 18F-FMAU PET Acad Radiol. 2023 08; 30(8):1721-1726. . View in PubMed
  • Radiosynthesis of 20-[18F]fluoroarachidonic acid for PET-MR imaging: Biological evaluation in ApoE4-TR mice Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2022 11; 186:102510. . View in PubMed
  • Development of a novel radiofluorinated riboflavin probe for riboflavin receptor-targeting PET imaging Pharmacol Res. 2022 09; 183:106395. . View in PubMed
  • Molecular Imaging of Tumor Microenvironment to Assess the Effects of Locoregional Treatment for Hepatocellular Carcinoma Hepatol Commun. 2022 04; 6(4):652-664. . View in PubMed
  • Recent advances and applications of microspheres and nanoparticles in transarterial chemoembolization for hepatocellular carcinoma Wiley Interdiscip Rev Nanomed Nanobiotechnol. 2022 03; 14(2):e1749. . View in PubMed
  • Hydroxyl-Rich Hydrophilic Endocytosis-Promoting Peptide with No Positive Charge J Am Chem Soc. 2022 11 09; 144(44):20288-20297. . View in PubMed
  • A comparison of the monomeric [68Ga]NODAGA-NGR and dimeric [68Ga]NOTA-(NGR)2 as aminopeptidase N ligand for positron emission tomography imaging in tumor-bearing mice Eur J Pharm Sci. 2021 Nov 01; 166:105964. . View in PubMed
  • Exploring Solvent Effects in the Radiosynthesis of 18F-Labeled Thymidine Analogues toward Clinical Translation for Positron Emission Tomography Imaging ACS Pharmacol Transl Sci. 2021 Feb 12; 4(1):266-275. . View in PubMed
  • Understanding the Exchange of Systemic HDL Particles Into the Brain and Vascular Cells Has Diagnostic and Therapeutic Implications for Neurodegenerative Diseases Front Physiol. 2021; 12:700847. . View in PubMed
  • Supramolecular nanosubstrate-mediated delivery system enables CRISPR-Cas9 knockin of hemoglobin beta gene for hemoglobinopathies Sci Adv. 2020 10; 6(43). . View in PubMed
  • Recent advances in the development of nanoparticles for multimodality imaging and therapy of cancer Med Res Rev. 2020 05; 40(3):909-930. . View in PubMed
  • Radiofluorinated GPC3-Binding Peptides for PET Imaging of Hepatocellular Carcinoma Mol Imaging Biol. 2020 02; 22(1):134-143. . View in PubMed
  • Near-Infrared Hybrid Rhodol Dyes with Spiropyran Switches for Sensitive Ratiometric Sensing of pH Changes in Mitochondria and Drosophila melanogaster First-Instar Larvae ACS Appl Bio Mater. 2019 Nov 18; 2(11):4986-4997. . View in PubMed
  • Preclinical evaluation of a 64Cu-labeled disintegrin for PET imaging of prostate cancer Amino Acids. 2019 Nov; 51(10-12):1569-1575. . View in PubMed
  • Small molecules as theranostic agents in cancer immunology Theranostics. 2019; 9(25):7849-7871. . View in PubMed
  • PET Imaging of Adenosine Receptors in Diseases Curr Top Med Chem. 2019; 19(16):1445-1463. . View in PubMed
  • Polyethyleneimine-Coated Manganese Oxide Nanoparticles for Targeted Tumor PET/MR Imaging ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2018 Oct 17; 10(41):34954-34964. . View in PubMed
  • PET imaging of Hsp90 expression in pancreatic cancer using a new 64Cu-labeled dimeric Sansalvamide A decapeptide Amino Acids. 2018 Jul; 50(7):897-907. . View in PubMed
  • 64Cu-Labeled multifunctional dendrimers for targeted tumor PET imaging Nanoscale. 2018 Mar 29; 10(13):6113-6124. . View in PubMed
  • Cross-Linked Fluorescent Supramolecular Nanoparticles for Intradermal Controlled Release of Antifungal Drug-A Therapeutic Approach for Onychomycosis ACS Nano. 2018 07 24; 12(7):6851-6859. . View in PubMed
  • Effect of Androgen on Normal Biodistribution of [18F]-2′-Fluoro-5-methyl-1-beta-D-arabinofuranosyluracil (18F-FMAU) in Athymic Non-tumor-bearing Male Mice Anticancer Res. 2017 02; 37(2):475-479. . View in PubMed
  • Transformative Nanomedicine of an Amphiphilic Camptothecin Prodrug for Long Circulation and High Tumor Uptake in Cancer Therapy ACS Nano. 2017 09 26; 11(9):8838-8848. . View in PubMed
  • Cross-Linked Fluorescent Supramolecular Nanoparticles as Finite Tattoo Pigments with Controllable Intradermal Retention Times ACS Nano. 2017 01 24; 11(1):153-162. . View in PubMed
  • Albumin/vaccine nanocomplexes that assemble in vivo for combination cancer immunotherapy Nat Commun. 2017 12 05; 8(1):1954. . View in PubMed
  • Evaluation of (188)Re-labeled NGR-VEGI protein for radioimaging and radiotherapy in mice bearing human fibrosarcoma HT-1080 xenografts Tumour Biol. 2016 Jul; 37(7):9121-9. . View in PubMed
  • Pretargeted Positron Emission Tomography Imaging That Employs Supramolecular Nanoparticles with in Vivo Bioorthogonal Chemistry ACS Nano. 2016 Jan 26; 10(1):1417-24. . View in PubMed
  • In Vivo Tumor Angiogenesis Imaging Using Peptide-Based Near-Infrared Fluorescent Probes Methods Mol Biol. 2016; 1444:73-84. . View in PubMed
  • Boramino acid as a marker for amino acid transporters Sci Adv. 2015 Sep; 1(8):e1500694. . View in PubMed
  • Targeted Prostate Gland Biopsy With Combined Transrectal Ultrasound, mpMRI, and 18F-FMAU PET/CT Clin Nucl Med. 2015 Aug; 40(8):e426-8. . View in PubMed
  • Development of PET probes for cancer imaging Curr Top Med Chem. 2015; 15(8):795-819. . View in PubMed
  • In vivo NIRF imaging-guided delivery of a novel NGR-VEGI fusion protein for targeting tumor vasculature Amino Acids. 2014 Dec; 46(12):2721-32. . View in PubMed
  • MicroPET imaging of CD13 expression using a (64)Cu-labeled dimeric NGR peptide based on sarcophagine cage Mol Pharm. 2014 Nov 03; 11(11):3938-46. . View in PubMed
  • A direct comparison of tumor angiogenesis with 68Ga-labeled NGR and RGD peptides in HT-1080 tumor xenografts using microPET imaging Amino Acids. 2014 Oct; 46(10):2355-64. . View in PubMed
  • 68Ga-labeled cyclic NGR peptide for microPET imaging of CD13 receptor expression Molecules. 2014 Aug 05; 19(8):11600-12. . View in PubMed
  • Near-infrared fluorescence imaging of CD13 receptor expression using a novel Cy55-labeled dimeric NGR peptide. Amino Acids. 2014 Jun; 46(6):1547-56. . View in PubMed
  • Recent advances in diagnosis and treatment of gliomas using chlorotoxin-based bioconjugates Am J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2014; 4(5):385-405. . View in PubMed
  • Radiolabeled nanoparticles for multimodality tumor imaging Theranostics. 2014; 4(3):290-306. . View in PubMed
  • (99m)Tc-labeled monomeric and dimeric NGR peptides for SPECT imaging of CD13 receptor in tumor-bearing mice Amino Acids. 2013 May; 44(5):1337-45. . View in PubMed
  • Synthesis and evaluation of 64Cu-labeled monomeric and dimeric NGR peptides for MicroPET imaging of CD13 receptor expression Mol Pharm. 2013 Jan 07; 10(1):417-27. . View in PubMed
  • Strain-Promoted Catalyst-Free Click Chemistry for Rapid Construction of (64)Cu-Labeled PET Imaging Probes ACS Med Chem Lett. 2012 Dec 13; 3(12):1019-23. . View in PubMed
  • Microwave-assisted one-pot radiosynthesis of 2′-deoxy-2′-[18F]fluoro-5-methyl-1-ß-d-arabinofuranosyluracil ([18F]-FMAU) Nucl Med Biol. 2012 Oct; 39(7):1019-25. . View in PubMed
  • [18F]-2′-Fluoro-5-methyl-1-beta-D-arabinofuranosyluracil (18F-FMAU) in prostate cancer: initial preclinical observations Mol Imaging. 2012 Sep-Oct; 11(5):426-32. . View in PubMed
  • A Cy55-labeled phage-displayed peptide probe for near-infrared fluorescence imaging of tumor vasculature in living mice. Amino Acids. 2012 Apr; 42(4):1329-37. . View in PubMed
  • Evaluation of 64Cu labeled GX1: a phage display peptide probe for PET imaging of tumor vasculature Mol Imaging Biol. 2012 Feb; 14(1):96-105. . View in PubMed
  • Efficient multicistronic co-expression of hNIS and hTPO in prostate cancer cells for nonthyroidal tumor radioiodine therapy Am J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2012; 2(4):483-98. . View in PubMed
  • Design, synthesis and validation of integrin a2ß1-targeted probe for microPET imaging of prostate cancer Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2011 Jul; 38(7):1313-22. . View in PubMed
  • Integrin targeted delivery of chemotherapeutics Theranostics. 2011 Feb 17; 1:189-200. . View in PubMed
  • Positron emission tomography imaging of cancer biology: current status and future prospects Semin Oncol. 2011 Feb; 38(1):70-86. . View in PubMed
  • Target-specific delivery of peptide-based probes for PET imaging Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2010 Aug 30; 62(11):1005-22. . View in PubMed
  • Phage display-derived peptides for osteosarcoma imaging Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Aug 15; 16(16):4268-77. . View in PubMed
  • Design of targeted cardiovascular molecular imaging probes J Nucl Med. 2010 May 01; 51 Suppl 1:3S-17S. . View in PubMed
  • Design and development of molecular imaging probes Curr Top Med Chem. 2010; 10(12):1227-36. . View in PubMed