Research Summary

Robert Flavell, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Section of Molecular Imaging in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco. He received his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College, and his PhD from the Rockefeller University as part of the Tri-Institutional MD PhD program. He completed his one-year internship at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Dr. Flavell completed a four-year diagnostic radiology residency at the University of California, San Francisco, where he also finished a Nuclear Medicine fellowship. In June 2016. he joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in Residence. Since 2019, he has been the Chief of the Division of Molecular Imaging and Therapeutics (formerly nuclear medicine), in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging.

Dr. Flavell’s laboratory focuses on the development of new molecular imaging and therapeutic tools for better understanding of disease progression in patients with prostate and other cancers. One area of interest is the relationship between acidic interstitial pH and disease progression, where he has developed new tools to directly image tumor pH using hyperpolarized 13C MRI and positron emission tomography (PET). Another major focus is the development of novel theranostic agents, where new therapies are paired with imaging agents against the same target. Dr. Flavell's research spans from basic chemistry and chemical biology projects, to translational and clinical studies.

Research Funding

  • December 9, 2020 - November 30, 2025 - A novel immunoPET imaging agent to guide treatment planning in lethal prostate cancer , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R37CA251980
  • September 17, 2021 - August 31, 2024 - ACE2-targeted PET radiotracers for investigating spatiotemporal distribution of SARS-CoV-2 organ injury and therapy response. , Co-Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01AI161829
  • May 1, 2018 - January 31, 2022 - Application of hyperpolarized 13C interstitial pH imaging to risk stratification in prostate cancer , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R21EB026012


Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, B.A., 1996-2000, Mathematics and chemistry
The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, laboratory of Dr. Tom W. Muir, PhD, 2002 - 2010, Peptide and protein chemistry, radiolabeling methods, and PET imaging
Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, MD, 2002 - 2010, Medicine
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 2010 - 2011, Transitional year intern
Dept of Radiology, UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, CA, 2011 - 2015, Diagnostic radiology residency
Dept of Radiology, UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, CA 2015 - 2016, Nuclear medicine fellowship

Honors & Awards

  • 2000
    Honors for undergraduate thesis in chemistry, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
  • 2013
    Introduction to Academic Radiology Program, American Roentgen Ray Society
  • 2014
    Certificate of Merit, 2014 Radiology Society of North America meeting
  • 2014
    University of California, San Francisco catalyst program consultation award
  • 2015
    Radiology Society of North America, Roentgen Resident Research award
  • 2015
    Association of University Radiologists Research Scholar Program
  • 2015
    Certificate of Merit, Radiology Society of North America Meeting
  • 2016
    Runner up, Surbeck Scholar’s Award, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2017
    Howard S. Stern Research Award, Society of Abdominal Radiology
  • 2017
    Prostate Cancer Foundation David Blitzer Young Investigator Award
  • 2017
    New Directions in Prostate Cancer Award, Prostate Cancer Program, UCSF
  • 2018
    Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Future Leaders Academy
  • 2019
    Dean's Prize in Mentoring, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2020
    Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging "Ones to Watch"

Selected Publications

  1. Parent EE, Savir-Baruch B, Gayed IW, Almaguel F, Chin B, Pantel AR, Armstrong E, Morley A, Ippisch RC, Flavell RR. JNMT continuing education: 177Lu PSMA therapy. J Nucl Med Technol. 2022 Jul 26.  View on PubMed
  2. Soe MH, Chiang JM, Flavell RR, Khanafshar E, Mendoza L, Kang H, Liu C. Non-Iodine-Avid Disease Is Highly Prevalent in Distant Metastatic Differentiated Thyroid Cancer With Papillary Histology. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2022 Jul 14; 107(8):e3206-e3216.  View on PubMed
  3. Polvoy I, Seo Y, Parker M, Stewart M, Siddiqua K, Manacsa HS, Ravanfar V, Blecha J, Hope TA, Vanbrocklin H, Flavell RR, Barry J, Hansen E, Villanueva-Meyer JE, Engel J, Rosenberg OS, Wilson DM, Ohliger MA. Imaging joint infections using D-methyl-11C-methionine PET/MRI: initial experience in humans. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2022 Sep; 49(11):3761-3771.  View on PubMed
  4. Liu X, Tang S, Mu C, Qin H, Cui D, Lai YC, Riselli AM, Delos Santos R, Carvajal L, Gebrezgiabhier D, Bok RA, Chen HY, Flavell RR, Gordon JW, Vigneron DB, Kurhanewicz J, Larson PEZ. Development of specialized magnetic resonance acquisition techniques for human hyperpolarized [13 C,15 N2 ]urea + [1-13 C]pyruvate simultaneous perfusion and metabolic imaging. Magn Reson Med. 2022 09; 88(3):1039-1054.  View on PubMed
  5. Beckford-Vera DR, Flavell RR, Seo Y, Martinez-Ortiz E, Aslam M, Thanh C, Fehrman E, Pardons M, Kumar S, Deitchman AN, Ravanfar V, Schulte B, Wu IK, Pan T, Reeves JD, Nixon CC, Iyer NS, Torres L, Munter SE, Hyunh T, Petropoulos CJ, Hoh R, Franc BL, Gama L, Koup RA, Mascola JR, Chomont N, Deeks SG, VanBrocklin HF, Henrich TJ. First-in-human immunoPET imaging of HIV-1 infection using 89Zr-labeled VRC01 broadly neutralizing antibody. Nat Commun. 2022 03 09; 13(1):1219.  View on PubMed
  6. Lawhn-Heath C, Hope TA, Martinez J, Fung EK, Shin J, Seo Y, Flavell RR. Dosimetry in radionuclide therapy: the clinical role of measuring radiation dose. Lancet Oncol. 2022 02; 23(2):e75-e87.  View on PubMed
  7. Meher N, Seo K, Wang S, Bidkar AP, Fogarty M, Dhrona S, Huang X, Tang R, Blaha C, Evans MJ, Raleigh DR, Jun YW, VanBrocklin HF, Desai TA, Wilson DM, Ozawa T, Flavell RR. Synthesis and Preliminary Biological Assessment of Carborane-Loaded Theranostic Nanoparticles to Target Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen. ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2021 Nov 24; 13(46):54739-54752.  View on PubMed
  8. Miyahira AK, Zarif JC, Coombs CC, Flavell RR, Russo JW, Zaidi S, Zhao D, Zhao SG, Pienta KJ, Soule HR. Prostate cancer research in the 21st century; report from the 2021 Coffey-Holden prostate cancer academy meeting. Prostate. 2022 02; 82(2):169-181.  View on PubMed
  9. Polvoy I, Qin H, Flavell RR, Gordon J, Viswanath P, Sriram R, Ohliger MA, Wilson DM. Deuterium Metabolic Imaging-Rediscovery of a Spectroscopic Tool. Metabolites. 2021 Aug 25; 11(9).  View on PubMed
  10. Liu J, Parker MFL, Wang S, Flavell RR, Toste FD, Wilson DM. Synthesis of N-trifluoromethyl amides from carboxylic acids. Chem. 2021 Aug 12; 7(8):2245-2255.  View on PubMed
  11. Heath CL, Esserman LJ, Flavell RR, Melisko ME. Authors' Reply: To the Letter to the Editor by Groheux et al. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2021 08 01; 19(8):xxx-xxxii.  View on PubMed
  12. Batsios G, Taglang C, Cao P, Gillespie AM, Najac C, Subramani E, Wilson DM, Flavell RR, Larson PEZ, Ronen SM, Viswanath P. Imaging 6-Phosphogluconolactonase Activity in Brain Tumors In Vivo Using Hyperpolarized δ-[1-13C]gluconolactone. Front Oncol. 2021; 11:589570.  View on PubMed
  13. Raghavan K, Flavell RR, Westphalen AC, Behr SC. Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor Incidentally Detected on 18F-Fluciclovine PET/CT. Clin Nucl Med. 2021 Apr 01; 46(4):345-347.  View on PubMed
  14. Parker MFL, Blecha J, Rosenberg O, Ohliger M, Flavell RR, Wilson DM. Cyclic 68Ga-Labeled Peptides for Specific Detection of Human Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2. J Nucl Med. 2021 11; 62(11):1631-1637.  View on PubMed
  15. Mu C, Korenchan DE, Wang S, Wilson DM, Flavell RR. Tumor Microenvironment Biosensors for Hyperpolarized Carbon-13 Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. Mol Imaging Biol. 2021 06; 23(3):323-334.  View on PubMed
  16. Hathi DK, Li W, Seo Y, Flavell RR, Kornak J, Franc BL, Joe BN, Esserman LJ, Hylton NM, Jones EF. Evaluation of primary breast cancers using dedicated breast PET and whole-body PET. Sci Rep. 2020 12 14; 10(1):21930.  View on PubMed
  17. Wang S, Li J, Hua J, Su Y, Beckford-Vera DR, Zhao W, Jayaraman M, Huynh TL, Zhao N, Wang YH, Huang Y, Qin F, Shen S, Gioeli D, Dreicer R, Sriram R, Egusa EA, Chou J, Feng FY, Aggarwal R, Evans MJ, Seo Y, Liu B, Flavell RR, He J. Molecular Imaging of Prostate Cancer Targeting CD46 Using ImmunoPET. Clin Cancer Res. 2021 03 01; 27(5):1305-1315.  View on PubMed
  18. Waller J, Lawhn-Heath CA, Edmonds C, Wendorf C, Holmes B, White M, Pampaloni MH, Liu C, Flavell RR. Management of Challenging Radioiodine Treatment Protocols: A Case Series and Review of the Literature. J Nucl Med Technol. 2021 Jun; 49(2):180-185.  View on PubMed
  19. Hyland CJ, Varghese F, Yau C, Beckwith H, Khoury K, Varnado W, Hirst GL, Flavell RR, Chien AJ, Yee D, Isaacs CJ, Forero-Torres A, Esserman LJ, Melisko ME. Use of 18F-FDG PET/CT as an Initial Staging Procedure for Stage II-III Breast Cancer: A Multicenter Value Analysis. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2020 11; 18(11):1510-1517.  View on PubMed
  20. Lawhn-Heath C, Yom SS, Liu C, Villanueva-Meyer JE, Aslam M, Smith R, Narwal M, Juarez R, Behr SC, Pampaloni MH, Chan JW, Glastonbury CM, Hope TA, Flavell RR. Gallium-68 prostate-specific membrane antigen ([68Ga]Ga-PSMA-11) PET for imaging of thyroid cancer: a feasibility study. EJNMMI Res. 2020 Oct 22; 10(1):128.  View on PubMed

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