I strive to combine my education and experience as a veterinarian and biological imaging scientist to combat cancer and other diseases through developing novel preclinical and translational molecular imaging approaches and improve our ability to diagnose, stage and treat cancer and other highly destructive diseases. Utilizing my expertise in animal physiology and biomedical imaging, I have developed innovative techniques to study pharmacologial profiles and tumor-selective contrast enhancement achieved with small molecule and nanoparticle-based agents.

My experience with various preclinial models of cancer imaging modalities has opened opportunities for innovative and collaborative biomeical research across disparate fields including tumor immunology, gene therapy and theranostic nanotechnology. My work directly contributes to the development and patenting of the "Cancer Vision Goggle" and near-infrared fluorescent tracers that enable surgeons to see otherwise invisible tumors during surgery.

As a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the UT Southwestern Medical Center, I continue to advance the translation of fluorescence guided surgery and depth-independent phototherapy. I envision that the utilization of these tools eradicating cancer through real-time augmented reality in the operating room and engineered constructs that activate the immune system to eliminate metastatic disease. 


Graduate School
University of Missouri-Columbi (2001), Veterinary Medicine
Graduate School
University of Missouri-Columbi (2005), Biomedical Engineering


Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Ablation of VLA4 in multiple myeloma cells redirects tumor spread and prolongs survival.
Hathi D, Chanswangphuwana C, Cho N, Fontana F, Maji D, Ritchey J, O'Neal J, Ghai A, Duncan K, Akers WJ, Fiala M, Vij R, DiPersio JF, Rettig M, Shokeen M, Sci Rep 2022 01 12 1 30
Targeting the spliceosome through RBM39 degradation results in exceptional responses in high-risk neuroblastoma models.
Singh S, Quarni W, Goralski M, Wan S, Jin H, Van de Velde LA, Fang J, Wu Q, Abu-Zaid A, Wang T, Singh R, Craft D, Fan Y, Confer T, Johnson M, Akers WJ, Wang R, Murray PJ, Thomas PG, Nijhawan D, Davidoff AM, Yang J, Sci Adv 2021 Nov 7 47 eabj5405
Next-generation humanized patient-derived xenograft mouse model for pre-clinical antibody studies in neuroblastoma.
Nguyen R, Patel AG, Griffiths LM, Dapper J, Stewart EA, Houston J, Johnson M, Akers WJ, Furman WL, Dyer MA, Cancer Immunol Immunother 2021 Mar 70 3 721-732
Selective imaging of solid tumours via the calcium-dependent high-affinity binding of a cyclic octapeptide to phosphorylated Annexin A2.
Shen D, Xu B, Liang K, Tang R, Sudlow GP, Egbulefu C, Guo K, Som A, Gilson R, Maji D, Mondal S, Habimana-Griffin L, Akers WJ, Li S, Liu Y, Bloch S, Kurkure S, Nussinov Z, Seidel A, Tsen SD, Achilefu S, Nat Biomed Eng 2020 03 4 3 298-313
Interleukin-15 Enhances Anti-GD2 Antibody-Mediated Cytotoxicity in an Orthotopic PDX Model of Neuroblastoma.
Nguyen R, Moustaki A, Norrie JL, Brown S, Akers WJ, Shirinifard A, Dyer MA, Clin Cancer Res 2019 12 25 24 7554-7564
Diagnosis of LVAD Thrombus using a High-Avidity Fibrin-Specific 99mTc Probe.
Cui G, Akers WJ, Scott MJ, Nassif M, Allen JS, Schmieder AH, Paranandi KS, Itoh A, Beyder DD, Achilefu S, Ewald GA, Lanza GM, Theranostics 2018 8 4 1168-1179
Bio-inspired imager improves sensitivity in near-infrared fluorescence image-guided surgery.
Garcia M, Edmiston C, York T, Marinov R, Mondal S, Zhu N, Sudlow GP, Akers WJ, Margenthaler J, Achilefu S, Liang R, Zayed MA, Pepino MY, Gruev V, Optica 2018 5 4 413-422
Optical See-Through Cancer Vision Goggles Enable Direct Patient Visualization and Real-Time Fluorescence-Guided Oncologic Surgery.
Mondal SB, Gao S, Zhu N, Habimana-Griffin L, Akers WJ, Liang R, Gruev V, Margenthaler J, Achilefu S, Ann Surg Oncol 2017 Jul 24 7 1897-1903
Evaluating Acetate Metabolism for Imaging and Targeting in Multiple Myeloma.
Fontana F, Ge X, Su X, Hathi D, Xiang J, Cenci S, Civitelli R, Shoghi KI, Akers WJ, D'avignon A, Weilbaecher KN, Shokeen M, Clin Cancer Res 2017 Jan 23 2 416-429
Imaging of radicals following injury or acute stress in peripheral nerves with activatable fluorescent probes.
Zhou H, Yan Y, Ee X, Hunter DA, Akers WJ, Wood MD, Berezin MY, Free Radic Biol Med 2016 12 101 85-92

Honors & Awards

  • Research Fellowship Award for International Young Scientists
    Chinese Natural Science Foundation (2010-2012)
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Award
    University of Missouri Biological Engineering (2004-2004)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • Assistant Professor for Radiology (2014-2017)
  • Associate Veterinarian (2001-2002)
  • Director of Center for In Vivo Imaging and Therapeutics (2017-2022)
  • Instructor for Radiology (2008-2010)