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New team leaders share their vision for future research (Part 2): cancer imaging

Posted on 29 November, 2013 by lizburtally
Continuing our coverage of this week’s faculty retreat, the topic moved from the molecular pathology and evolution of cancer to cutting-edge developments in the use of imaging in cancer diagnosis and therapy. The use of imaging biomarkers to guide precision medicine opened the afternoons session.

Imaging has moved on tremendously over the last 10 years. No longer just used for collecting anatomical information, imaging techniques can be combined to give researchers detailed information on if a patient is responding to therapy, and can help to stratify patients according to therapy course. Dr Gabriela Kramer-Marek is focusing on developing PET to detect and characterise tumours. Traditionally, researchers tend to use antibodies as a PET label, which come with many pitfalls, such as being unstable, and requiring the patient to have multiple hospital visits. So instead of using antibodies, Dr Kramer-Marek is looking into using ‘affibodies’ – artificial antibody mimics which are much more stable and are easier to use. Dr Graham Smith then went into detail of other PET tracers being developed here at The Institute of Cancer Research, London. There is a lot of exciting imaging biomarker plans, and our research with contribute greatly to the international imaging biomarker platform, opening up plenty of opportunities of collaborations.

Closing the radiotherapy and imaging session was Dr Emma Harris who moved us away from tumour models to patients and the clinic. She overviewed the problems in delivering radiotherapy. Motion is a massive barrier – both internally with organ movement and externally due to the patient moving. X-rays can be used to guide radiotherapy planning, but these are hard to take during treatment, often not showing soft tissue clearly, and also gives the patient an extra dose of radiation. To address these limitations, Dr Harris has been using 4D ultrasound to track radiotherapy. Not only can images be taken in real time, it puts the patient at no extra risk and soft tissue can be visualised clearly. Researchers can process internal and external movement in real time, so can adjust the radiotherapy accordingly. This sounds like an amazing step forward in radiotherapy treatment planning and she aims to test this in prostate, liver, cervical and paediatric cancer.


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