James Michael Provenzale

Image of James Michael Provenzale

Professor of Radiology

I have three major research areas:
I. Applications of nanotechnology to treatment of cancer (both CNS and non-CNS) and brain disorders. I have a dual appointment at both Duke University Medical Center (Department of Radiology) and Emory University School of Medicine/Georgia Tech (Departments of Radiology, Oncology and Biomedical Engineering) which allows me to perform nanotechnology-based research at both institutions.
My research involves design and implementation of nanoparticles and fluorescent molecules for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Although I am trained as a neurologist and neuroradiologist, most of my nanotechnology-based research is oriented towards non-CNS tumors such as breast cancer and sarcomas. In the past few years, my Emory and Georgia Tech colleagues and I have conducted research using animals with naturally-occurring tumors at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. This work has focused on the use of a handheld device to detect fluorophores that are administered intravenously prior to surgery. We are presently validating the use of this combination of imaging device and contrast agent to guide surgical resection of tumors.
I am also interested in development of nanotechnology-based non-invasive and minimally invasive devices that can continuously monitor tumor physiological characteristics and response to therapy. This work is done in conjunction with a number of colleagues in Biomedical Engineering at both Duke and Emory and supported by a number of NIH grants. Finally, I have a strong interest in use of nanotechnology for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

II. Brain tumor imaging in cinical trials and experimental studies with specific focus on:
(A) development of forms of molecular imaging of brain tumors that will allow more specific and sensitive means of understanding tumor physiology,
(B) novel methods of perfusion imaging of brain tumors to understand tumor behavior and response to various therapies, and
(C) development of novel contrast agents.

III. Diffusion tensor imaging (an MR technique that measures rate and direction of microscopic water motion) to examine white matter pathways in the brain and spinal cord. This technique, which has many research applications that we are bringing into the clinical realm, is very well-suited for understanding white matter disorders such as childhood leukodystrophies and multiple sclerosis. My recent work has focused on understanding patterns of normal brain development in childhood and adolescence using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) fo assess white matter tracts at various stages of brain development. In addition, working with colleagues in the Duke Department of Psychiatry, I have performed research for many years in use of DTI to understand changes in neural circuits associated with late-life depression.
Since 1998, I have mentored third-year students at Duke University School of Medicine (typically one medical student per year) in both DTI research and perfusion imaging research. Although the research techniques are highly advanced, our implementation of various "user-friendly" software programs allows students with little or no prior experience to analyze data in a productive manner. Our research is also well-suited to individuals with advanced computer skills or an interest in biomedical or electrical engineering. Students work closely with research personnel on a daily basis. They also meet with collaborators from various basic science and clinical departments and me in a laboratory meeting once a week. The focus of these meetings is to plan experiments, refine research methods, discuss experimental results and prepare manuscripts. Students serve as first authors or co-authors on manuscripts based on their specific research project. The results of a number of such projects have been published. Present projects include use of DTI to evaluate the developing human brain, implementation of DTI to understand the microstructure of the normal canine brain (in collaboration with G. Allan Johnson of the Duke Center for In Vivo Microscopy and colleagues at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine) and correlation of perfusion measurements in human brain tumors obtained using CT and MR perfusion imaging sequences.

Appointments and Affiliations

  • Professor of Radiology
  • Faculty Network Member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Contact Information:

  • Office Phone: (919) 684-7218
  • Email Address: prove001@mc.duke.edu


  • M.D. Albany Medical College, 1983