Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, Ohio
Professor of Radiology, Biomedical Engineering and Pathology, Case Western Reserve University

Research Projects

Diagnostics and therapy together in one agent is called theranostics. Dr. Basilion’s theranostic approach to treating cancer utilizes a novel compound or probe developed in his lab. With the probe, clinicians first visualize the precise location of prostate cancer cells, followed by light-activation of the probe to kill only prostate cancer cells. Current prostate cancer treatments include surgical removal or radiation of the prostate, however these treatments lead to unwanted side effects of erectile dysfunction, incontinence and bowel urgency. Dr. Basilion sought to create a therapy which would effectively treat prostate cancer without causing these debilitating side effects.

With NFCR funding beginning in 2005, Dr. Basilion created the novel probe to bind prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) — a protein found on prostate cancer cells, allowing clinicians to identify the precise location of cancer. When light is shown on the probe bound to PMSA, the probe becomes activated and causes cellular stress, killing only prostate cancer cells. PSMA is also found in new blood vessels of all solid tumors, allowing Dr. Basilion’s theranostic approach to potentially enhance outcomes of image-guided surgery and light treatment for patients with breast, prostate, colorectal, pancreas, brain and liver tumors.

Years of NFCR support to Dr. Basilion’s laboratory efforts have led to promising experimental imaging technology now being commercialized through the AIM-HI Translational Research Initiative. To learn more, click here.


James P. Basilion, Ph.D., studied biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania in 1984 and attended graduate school at the University of Texas Health Science Center. He then completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and, during this time, he began a series of studies with investigators at the Center for Molecular Imaging Research at Massachusetts General Hospital.

In 1996, Dr. Basilion worked at a small genomics and anti-cancer biotech company and, in 1999, he joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital-Center for Molecular Imaging Research. He was later recruited at the Case Western Reserve University Schools of Medicine and Engineering and is currently a professor in both the Departments of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering.

Dr. Basilion served as Director of the NFCR Center for Molecular Imaging from 2005 to 2017. Additionally, he serves as an external advisory board member for the Pacific Ovarian Cancer Research Consortium and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, and was a standing member on the MEDI Study Section for the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Basilion has held several offices in the Society for Molecular Imaging (SMI), and was instrumental in the merger to form the World Molecular Imaging Society (WMIS), where he served as treasurer.

Dr. Basilion provides reviews for several academic journals and holds editorial board positions for molecular imaging-centric journals. He has also founded Akrotome Imaging, Inc., a company devoted to the translation of molecular imaging technologies.

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