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£5.8 Million Grant Awarded to Investigate Intelligent Cancer Imaging


Thursday 29 April 2010

Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have helped secure a £5.8 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to investigate innovative medical scanning techniques that could better diagnose a range of cancers.


Professor Martin Leach and Professor Steve Webb are part of a team of researchers led by Professor Dave Hawkes at University College London and including scientists from King’s College London and Imperial College that will be researching a new method to streamline and improve medical imaging.


The scientists will be looking for ways to extract clinically-relevant information directly from a medical image measurement. Currently, a series of advanced medical images must be measured and then interpreted or processed by computer before they provide the information needed for diagnosis. The team plans to create computer models of anatomy, motion and microstructures that can be used directly with raw sensor data to extract information about disease progression or response to therapy. Clinicians could use this information to diagnose cancer and plan and monitor appropriate therapies.


This could noticeably cut the time imaging takes, potentially increase the accuracy of scanning moving structures and decrease the costs of the scanning process. In addition, it would decrease the patient’s exposure to harmful radiation as imaging could be quicker and fewer images would be needed to gather the same amount of information.


The researchers predict that the new technology will be able to better detect a range of lethal cancers such as lung and liver. The technique could also potentially benefit the detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease and determine the health of foetuses and newborn babies.


Professor Webb and his team will concentrate on understanding and predicting tissue movement, caused for example by breathing, and compensating for it when delivering radiation therapy, to ensure the treatment is delivered precisely and does not damage surrounding tissues. Professor Leach and his team will develop methods of obtaining information on how tumours function, using advanced imaging and computing methods to take account of tissue motion.


The study will concentrate on MRI and CT scanning but the method could potentially be applied to other technologies.


“We are very pleased to be involved in this collaboration, which will ensure London stays at the forefront of research in this competitive field and ultimately should improve the prognosis for cancer patients,” Professor Leach says.



Media contact: Jane Bunce or 020 7153 5106 or after hours on 07721 747900


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

  • The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre
  • The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise
  • The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe
  • The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income, spending 95 pence in every pound of total income directly on research
  • As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction
  • Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organisation in the world

For more information visit


The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests around £740 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. 

Further information about EPSRC can be found at

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