08 Oct 2008   |   News   |   Update from University College London
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UK to invest £50M in cancer imaging research centres

The UK is to invest in a nationwide network of cancer imaging research centres that will apply the latest imaging technologies to basic and clinical research.

PET scans of a malignant brain tumor. Image courtesy
Dr. Giovanni Di Chiro, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

The UK is to make a £50 million investment over the next five years in a nationwide network of cancer imaging research centres that will apply the latest imaging technologies to basic and clinical research to help improve the detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The initiative is led by the charity Cancer Research UK, which is putting in £ million, while the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will contribute GBP 15 million. In addition, the Medical Research Council is to invest £3 million, with a further £1.3 million from the National Institute for Health Research.

Discoveries made through the initiative will be protected by Cancer Research Technology (CRT) the technology transfer arm of the charity. A CRT business manager will be assigned to each centre or programme to work with industry and ensure new discoveries are translated through to treatments.

Four large cancer imaging centres will be set up at Imperial College London, the Institute of Cancer Research, Oxford University and a joint centre between King’s College London and University College London, with funding of £2 million a year each. These will serve as focal points of world-class research using a variety of imaging techniques, including magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography, or PET.

Researchers at these centres will develop new imaging techniques including watching cells in action, by tracing radioactive markers injected into the patient’s body. These techniques will enable doctors to see therapies at work, identifying earlier which treatments work best for individual patients.

In addition, five cancer imaging research programmes will be set up at the Childhood Cancer and Leukaemia Group at Birmingham University, the Royal Surrey County Hospital, the University of St Andrews, Newcastle University and Sheffield University. Each of these will concentrate on a specific area of imaging research, receiving up to £500,000 a year for these programmes.

David Delpy, chief executive of the EPSRC, said, “These centres will bring together scientists, engineers and clinicians interested in all aspects of imaging research, speeding up advances in new technologies and benefiting patients too.”

Traditional imaging techniques, such as X-ray, CT and ultrasound, will also be developed and refined at the new centres.

Herbie Newell, director of translational research at Cancer Research UK, said, “Imaging is an invaluable tool in the fight against cancer. Being able to see what’s happening inside patients is vitally important in understanding how treatments are currently working and the best ways to improve them.”

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, noted that imaging is fast becoming one of the most effective means of detecting cancer early, and of determining which treatment works for which patient.  “Cancer Research UK has identified imaging research as a priority and we believe this substantial investment over the next five years will reap many benefits.”

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