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Professor Martin Leach

Team Leader

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Professor Martin Leach is developing the use of magnetic resonance measurements for diagnosing cancer and predicting the best form of treatment. He has developed magnetic resonance imaging methods both for patients in the clinic and for pre-clinical development of new drugs. Team: Magnetic Resonance

T 020 8661 3338


I have been motivated by translating developments in physics and related science to improve our understanding of disease and its treatment. My primary interest has been in developing and advancing magnetic resonance measurements to detect and diagnose cancer and to plan and evaluate cancer treatments.

With new treatments targeting cellular pathways that are central to cancer development, it has become increasingly important to develop imaging markers of target inhibition and to identify and characterise these in pre-clinical studies before moving these in to clinical studies. This involves identification of new biomarkers of pathways, and developing measurement and analysis methods to evaluate these biomarkers.

Following degrees in Physics and Applied Radiation Physics, I performed a research project on measuring body calcium by in vivo fast neutron activation analysis supervised by Professor John Fremlin in the Department of Physics at Birmingham. This involved working with the Nuffield Cyclotron, production of isotopes, development of analysis equipment and the study of inert gas behaviour in vivo.

I then joined the Joint Department of Physics at the Institute of Cancer Research to work on developing Computed Tomography (CT) scanners for radiotherapy planning, moving on to work with isotope imaging and a prototype Positron Emission Tomography (PET) system before developing the Magnetic Resonance (MR) programme with Janet Husband. The programme was initially clinically focussed and I developed applications of quantitative and functional imaging and MR spectroscopy to characterise cancer and its response to treatments. This led to many applications, including the MARIBS trial of MR for detecting breast cancer in women at high risk, which led to revised recommendations for management of high risk women by NICE and the American Cancer Society, resulting in the introduction of such screening in the cancer reform strategy.

During this period I also developed facilities for pre-clinical investigations, building a programme of metabolic investigation of new therapeutics and supporting development of a pre-clinical imaging programme. These facilities have resulted in measurements and analysis methods for functional MR have being developed and embedded in a range of clinical trials, including early stage trails of novel therapeutics.

With Professor Nandita de Souza and other colleagues we have been successfully gained awards to establish a CR-UK and EPSRC Cancer Imaging Centre, which encompasses the range of imaging modalities and facilitates their integration into clinical studies.