Cancer imaging centres receive £35m funding boost

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Cancer imaging is set to get a major boost from a £35 million nationwide initiative to develop imaging technologies for basic and clinical cancer research.

Cancer Research UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are committing £35 million for five years to four separate cancer imaging centres across the UK, including a joint centre between the University of Manchester and the University of Cambridge.

This latest funding will bring together scientists, engineers and clinicians to develop new imaging techniques and applications which will help clinicians treat cancer. It will enable clinicians to 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 conduct research using a variety of techniques, such as optical microscopy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and positron emission tomography (PET).

The imaging centre at The University of Manchester, led by Professor Alan Jackson, is part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, a partnership between the University, Cancer Research UK and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.

Research at this centre will include analysing how second cancer drug treatments may increase the uptake of a first cancer drug and the development of sophisticated, quantitative imaging studies to further drug development and cancer treatment. One example is their work using radioactively-labelled drugs with PET imaging equipment, which can see whether drugs used to treat brain tumours are delivered where they’re needed.

Professor Ian Jacobs, vice-president of The University of Manchester and Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, said: ‘This is an exciting development which will provide added value to our efforts in cancer research by investing in and linking the expertise and research resources in cancer imaging in Manchester and Cambridge.’

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 three other imaging centres to receive funding are at the University of Oxford, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and a joint imaging centre between King’s College London and University College London.

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 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 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.

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