Cancer imaging is set to get a major boost from a £35 million nationwide initiative to develop cutting edge imaging technologies for basic and clinical cancer research.
Cancer Research UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are together committing £35 million for five years to four separate cancer imaging centres across the country, helping to cement the UK’s position as a world leader in cancer imaging research. The new initiative builds on the £50 million initial investment in October 20081.
“Research is unlocking cancer’s secrets and our ability to see what is going on with cancers is essential to better diagnose, monitor and treat cancer patients” – Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of research funding
This latest funding will bring together scientists, engineers and clinicians to develop new imaging techniques and applications which will help clinicians learn more about how tumours feed and grow, how cancer cells signal to one another, tumour blood supply, the environment surrounding tumours and molecular and genetic signatures.
The cancer imaging centres will serve as focal points of world-class research using a variety of techniques, such as optical microscopy, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), functional MRI2, ultrasound, and PET (Positron Emission Tomography).
Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of strategy and research funding, said: “Imaging is an invaluable tool in the fight against cancer. Being able to see what’s happening inside a patient is vitally important in understanding how treatments are working and the best ways to improve them.”
Professor David Delpy, chief executive of the EPSRC, said: “This large investment is great news and builds upon our previous successful collaboration with Cancer Research UK. These centres will bring together many of the UK’s leading scientists, engineers and clinicians interested in all aspects of imaging research, speeding up advances in new technologies and ensuring these are applied rapidly for the benefit of patients.”
The four imaging centres to receive funding are at: the University of Oxford, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, a joint imaging centre between King’s College London and University College London and a new collaboration between the University of Cambridge and University of Manchester.
Imaging plays a crucial role in cancer management in three main ways; as an initial assessment of the extent of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, as a tool for guiding therapy and to assess patient response to therapy.
The cancer imaging centre in Cambridge and Manchester combines cutting-edge translational research and clinical trials with state-of-the-art imaging, genomics and pre-clinical research. By combining these two locations the cancer imaging centre has access to a large patient population and vital clinical trials infrastructure.
The cancer imaging centre in Oxford aims to integrate basic research in chemistry, physics and cancer biology with imaging science to guide treatment choices for cancer patients.
The cancer imaging centre at King’s College London and University College London combine cutting-edge technology development at King’s College London with the genomics expertise and clinical trials as well as access to the first clinical simultaneous PET/MRI facility in the UK. The facility focuses on determining the differences in a patient’s tumour and in bringing new imaging methods to the clinic.
The cancer imaging centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London is part of the largest comprehensive Cancer Centre in Europe and will focus on enabling ‘personalised’ medicine for each individual patient. New imaging techniques, such as identifying an imaging ‘fingerprint’ of aggressive disease, will help determine which tumours have the greatest risk of progression.
Dr Iain Foulkes added: “This investment will help drive major improvements for cancer patients in the future. Research is unlocking cancer’s secrets and our ability to see what is going on with cancers is essential to better diagnose, monitor and treat cancer patients.”
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1. This was also funded by the Department of Health and the Medical Research Council.
2. functional MRI is a procedure that uses MRI technology to measure brain activity by detecting the change in blood flow to different regions of the brain