Meryl Vilangattil

Development of 18F-labelled FAPI (fibroblast activating protein inhibitor) for Positron Emission Tomography of cancer and inflammation

The primary objective of my research is the development of a novel radiopharmaceutical for imaging of Fibroblast Activation Protein (FAP) which is overexpressed in various cancers. Research in this field is making continuous strides against cancer and I hope to contribute to it by incorporating novel technologies towards improvement in diagnosis of the disease which will help improve prognosis and standard of living in cancer patients.

F-18 labelled FAPi (Fibroblast activating protein inhibitor) using photoclick for PET imaging of cancer and inflammation


To begin, here’s a brief overview of my project. The research includes optimization and clinical translation of a GMP-compliant synthesis method which will be applied for novel radiopharmaceuticals to investigate Fibroblast Activating Peptide (FAP) in oncology using photoclick method. The aim is to develop a relevant radiopharmaceutical for imaging of fibroblast activation protein (FAP) and perform the necessary biological experiments to translate FAP-radiopharmaceuticals to the clinic.

Let’s delve a little deeper into FAP for better understanding. Fibroblast Activation Protein (FAP) is a protein found in the body, especially in connective tissues. Its job is to help regulate the growth and activity of certain cells called fibroblasts. These fibroblasts play important roles in wound healing, tissue repair, and the formation of scar tissue. However, in some cases, like in cancer, FAP can be overproduced. This overproduction can contribute to tumor growth and spread by altering the surrounding tissue environment. FAP is overexpression in 90% of epithelial carcinomas. Researchers are studying FAP to better understand its role in health and disease, and to develop treatments that target it, especially in cancer therapy.

Starting Ph.D. is like embarking on a new adventure and sailing into unknown territories of science and learning. The first six months are usually a mix of excitement, challenges, and personal development. You dive deep into learning and research while getting used to a new environment. Transitioning to a new location is a hallmark of many doctoral journeys, and it serves as both an exhilarating adventure and a daunting challenge. The relocation necessitates not only adjusting to a new academic setting but also acclimating to the cultural nuances and forging new social connections. The initial months may be punctuated by moments of disorientation and homesickness, yet they also offer opportunities for self-discovery and the cultivation of resilience.

Right now, my focus is on conducting a range of cell culture experiments and research to assess how well the compound interacts with the target protein. If these experiments yield positive results, I’ll be moving on to the next phase, which involves testing the compound on animals. This step is crucial for understanding how the compound behaves in a living organism and whether it holds promise for further development.

In the lab, doing scientific experiments has both good and bad parts. Sometimes things go well, and sometimes they don’t. Experiments can be tricky and full of surprises. Even when things go wrong, it’s not the end of the road. Instead, it’s a chance to learn and improve how we do things. Each mistake teaches us to be tougher and more determined, which are important qualities for succeeding.

In conclusion, the start of my Ph.D. is a mix of hard work and success, challenges and victories. It’s a journey where we discover new things not only in the lab but also within ourselves. With determination and curiosity, we move forward, knowing that we’re making a difference.