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Research overview

Dr Simon Robinson, Magnetic Resonance team

Anticancer drug discovery and development is being accelerated by the identification of cancer-causing genes and associated pathways. The use of functional imaging biomarkers is an essential component in both the identification of novel targets and evaluation of new therapeutics.

The research objectives of the Pre-clinical Imaging Team, part of the Cancer Research UK & Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Cancer Imaging Centre, are principally focussed on the further development and application of non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods to identify and evaluate imaging biomarkers of tumour pathophysiology and therapeutic response. Complementary imaging (e.g. ultrasound, micro-computed tomography[CT]), and histological techniques including fluorescence microscopy, are being used to validate, calibrate and characterise these biomarkers.

In addition to conventional anatomical MRI for monitoring tumour burden, established quantitative functional MRI biomarkers are being evaluated for the assessment of i) incipient tumour angiogenesis; ii) vascular targeting therapies; and iii) novel targeted agents whose mechanism of action is predicted to elicit anti-angiogenic activity. Imaging of tumour hypoxia, and associated features of the tumour microenvironment, is also a major focus of the research. Emerging MRI biomarkers to non-invasively interrogate viscoelastic properties of tumours and their invasive phenotype, and interstitial fluid pressure, are also being exploited.