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Irena Pashkunova-Martic
Dr.rer.nat. Irena Pashkunova-Martic, PhDSenior Chemist

Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy
Position: Research Assistant

ORCID: ORCID ID: 0000-0003-0312-6461
T +43 1 40400 48195

Further Information


Biopolymers; Contrast Media; Diagnostic Imaging; Early Detection of Cancer; Fluorine Compounds; Manganese Compounds; Multidetector Computed Tomography; Nanoconjugates; Ultrahigh field MRI

Research group(s)

  • Experimental MRI & CT Contrast Agents
    Head: Irena Pashkunova-Martic
    Research Area: Chemistry is the new frontier in advancing applications of molecular functional imaging in cancer. Designing and developing novel nanotheranostic probes with integrated imaging motifs to detect and comprehensively characterize tumors and a drug-motif that will advance the concept of ‘personalized diagnosis & treatment’ of cancer is the major objective of our current research.

Research interests

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for millions of deaths yearly. One of the most important tasks facing human health is the early detection of the disease before its physical manifestation and the prevention of tumor spread. My research focus is dedicated to the targeted and early visualization of cancerous cells at a nascent stage that is crucial and is still an unaddressed challenge in oncology. 

Nanotheranostics provide an unprecedented opportunity to integrate various components along with customized therapeutic agents, controlled-release mechanisms, targeting strategies, and reporting functionality for detection and treatment of malignant diseases within a single compound. Cancer-directed nanotheranostics for MRI or CT will become indispensable imaging tools providing the most specific information on biodistribution, tumor accumulation and therapy response. Taking advantage of the intrinsic chelator properties of some anticancer-antibiotics and integrating alternative paramagnetic centers such as 19F or 54Mn onto innovative nano-/biopolymer-based carriers, novel smart nanotheranostic compounds for high sensitive multimodal imaging modalities are currently under investigation. These compounds represent the greatest challenges in chemistry that will improve profoundly the performance of existing imaging modalities and therapy outcome leading to cancer elimination. 

Techniques, methods & infrastructure

The following instrumentations/methods are used for the physico-chemical characterization of all experimental contrast agents: attenuated total reflectance-fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR), electroparamagnetic resonance (EPR), thermogravimetric analysis - differential scanning calorimetry (TGA-DSC), fast protein liquid chromatography (FPLC), inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) in close collaboration with Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, University of Vienna and the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski", Faculty of Medicine, Bulgaria. In vitro MR relaxivity measurements as well as in vivo stuides are carried out in a high-field MR scanner (9.4 Tesla, Bruker Biospec) and in an Invenion μ-CT scanner (Siemens Medical Solutions) at the Preclinical Imaging Laboratory (PIL), Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy, Medical University of Vienna.

Selected publications

  1. Pashkunova-Martic, I. et al. (2022) ‘Novel Salinomycin-Based Paramagnetic Complexes—First Evaluation of Their Potential Theranostic Properties’, Pharmaceutics, 14(11), p. 2319. Available at:
  2. Pashkunova-Martic, I. et al. (2021) ‘Doubly derivatized poly(lactide)–albumin nanoparticles as blood vessel-targeted transport device for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)’, Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 23(2). Available at:
  3. Pashkunova-Martic, I. et al. (2018) ‘Studies of KP46 and KP1019 and the Hydrolysis Product of KP1019 in Lipiodol Emulsions: Preparation and Initial Characterizations as Potential Theragnostic Agents’, Current Drug Delivery, 15(1). Available at:
  4. Pashkunova-Martic, I. et al. (2010) ‘Lectin Conjugates as Biospecific Contrast Agents for MRI. Coupling of Lycopersicon esculentum Agglutinin to Linear Water-Soluble DTPA-Loaded Oligomers’, Molecular Imaging and Biology, 13(3), pp. 432–442. Available at:
  5. Paschkunova-Martic, I. et al. (2005) ‘Design, synthesis, physical and chemical characterisation, and biological interactions of lectin-targeted latex nanoparticles bearing Gd–DTPA chelates: an exploration of magnetic resonance molecular imaging (MRMI)’, Histochemistry and Cell Biology, 123(3), pp. 283–301. Available at: