Cancer imaging

The Cambridge Cancer Centre with its combination of scientific excellence and state-of-the-art imaging facilities is developing novel technologies to look inside cancer cells. Imaging plays an increasingly important role in our translational priorities of drug development, through ‘first-in-man’ experimental medicine studies, with parallel studies in pre-clinical models, and in early detection. The aim of advancing imaging technologies and applications draws on Cambridge’s strengths in chemistry, physics, applied mathematics and engineering, and is an important component of our clinical research programmes across a wide range of cancer types.

How new techniques are revolutionising medical imaging

Programme Contacts

University of Cambridge
Department of Biochemistry
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Radiology

Publications

Cancer Imaging Programme

A diverse range of imaging technologies are being developed, covering both new and existing imaging modalities, in pre-clinical and clinical research. Recent investments over the last five years have placed Cambridge in a leading position in the development of new cancer imaging techniques. A major emphasis of the Cancer Imaging Theme is to translate new technology from the laboratory into the clinic, with the ultimate goals of improving patient outcomes, advancing personalised medicine and increasing the cost effectiveness of healthcare. Some areas of expertise are described below.

Hyperpolarised MRI

This is a new technique that increases the sensitivity of MRI by more than 10,000 times and which has allowed unprecedented studies of tissue metabolism in vivo. The method, termed hyperpolarised carbon-13 MRI, has been developed in collaboration with a commercial partner. The technique detects cellular metabolites involved in producing the energy and constituents that a cell needs to survive. We have shown that this allows the response of a tumour to a drug to be detected very early during treatment, which is important for evaluating the efficacy of new drugs in early stage clinical trials, and to find out, as quickly as possible, if individual patients are receiving the most effective combination and dose of drugs to treat their cancer. Cambridge is widely acknowledged as one of the world leaders in the clinical application of this revolutionary imaging technology to cancer. The first study in Europe using this technique has recently commenced in Cambridge.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Cambridge also has great expertise in other areas of MRI including: contrast-enhanced MRI to assess tumour vascularity, diffusion-weighted imaging to assess tumour cellularity, sodium MRI to probe tissue structure as well as real-time MRI to study moving tissue. Many different approaches for probing tumour hypoxia with MRI are being studied in both pre-clinical and clinical projects. Several groups are exploring how mathematical and statistical approaches can be applied to the analysis of images to provide information on tumour biology that is not apparent on visual inspection. Areas of particular expertise in MRI include breast, prostate, liver and brain tumours.

Ultrasound and elastography

Collaborations between physicists, engineers, and clinicians are leading to more sensitive methods for visualising tumours and their surrounding structures. Physical changes that occur when a tumour forms, such as tissue stiffness, can be monitored using ultrasound. These features can be exploited to monitor the local tumour microenvironment. Many of these investigators are part of the Bioengineering theme in the Department of Engineering.

PET/CT and PET/MRI

Cambridge opened the first PET/CT scanning department in the East of England in 2008. PET/CT technology uses two different imaging techniques – Positron Emission Tomography and Computed Tomography – and combines the results to produce detailed three-dimensional images of what is happening inside a patient's body. The combination allows both the structure and function of diseased areas to be studied. Scientists and clinicians across Cambridge are developing the applications of existing PET tracers, as well as more novel agents, to detect cancer, to characterise it more accurately and determine if patients are responding to treatment. The campus has recently been awarded funding for a PET/MRI machine, which combines the advantages of both imaging modalities, allowing multi-parametric measurements to be made simultaneously. Patient imaging with this technique will commence in late 2016.

Photoacoustic tomography

Photoacoustic tomography (PAT) is a powerful diagnostic tool with significant potential for clinical translation. The photoacoustic effect arises when absorption of pulsed laser light gives rise to thermal expansion, producing a broadband ultrasound wave. Ultrasound detection produces images that combine the high contrast of optical imaging with the high spatial resolution and penetration depths of ultrasound imaging. PAT is being used on breast cancer patients to assess tumour hypoxia, which is important to detect as tumour cells deprived of oxygen can become resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy. PAT is also being used to develop novel targeted imaging agents.

Fluorescent endoscopy

A novel approach for fluorescently-tagging naturally occurring molecules has been used to detect changes in the progression to oesophageal cancer using fluorescence endoscopy. This could potentially aid tumour detection and the rapid advancement of endoscopic therapies, such as endoscopic resection and radiofrequency ablation. This novel approach has the potential to be extended to other pre-cancerous lesions in the gastrointestinal tract.

Principal investigators and consultants

  • All members
  • Group leaders
  • Clinical consultants
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Clinical Neuroscience
Cambridge Institute for Medical Research
Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre
Research in the development and application of molecular imaging probes, in particular for the in vivo imaging technique of positron...
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MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Optical microscopy
Brad Amos is a biologist and a designer of optical instruments. A boyhood visit to the Plymouth Lab of the Marine Biological Association in...
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University of Cambridge
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
My major research interests are in developing in vivo and ex vivo MR methods (using MRI and MRS) for early diagnosis of cancer and...
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering
MRI Methods
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University of Cambridge
Department of Biochemistry
CRUK Cambridge Institute
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a well-established, clinically applicable, tool for determining tissue morphology. The techniques of...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Radiology
Imaging research in breast cancer using single photon techniques including the use of functional imaging to predict response to...
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MRC Cancer Unit
My research concerns developing imaging and optical tools to better understand the role of cell cycle DNA damage checkpoints in preventing...
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Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
CRUK Cambridge Institute
Development of hyperpolarization techniques based on dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP) for magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging in...
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Our research group focuses on understanding the role of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs, targets for about ~50% of current drugs)...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Clinical Neuroscience
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Radiology
Dr Ferdia Gallagher studied medicine as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge before completing his clinical studies at the...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Engineering
Since 1995, I have been working on technical aspects of clinical ultrasonic imaging, with particular emphasis on three-dimensional imaging...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
Mathematical Image Analysis for Cancer Research Applications
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Radiology
Consultant Clinical Scientist
The development of MRI acquisition and analysis methods in oncology. We have developed and applied advanced methods for dynamic contrast...
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University of Cambridge
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
Magnetic Resonance Imaging and spectroscopy of cancer. Our Group develops and applies Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) and Imaging (...
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Developing hyperpolarised 13C MRI and PET-CT techniques for the early detection of treatment response..
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University of Cambridge
Department of Biochemistry
I am based in the Biochemistry Department and work on several cancer related projects, primarily in collaboration with Jim Metcalfe, Kevin...
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Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
Research title: New methods and applications of Hyperpolarized MRI. Felix completed his MSc in Physics at the Technical University of...
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Percutaneous image guided tumour ablation and endovascular drug delivery.
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Department of Radiology
Development and validation of novel imaging methods to image leukocyte infiltration into tumours as biomarkers of immune checkpoint...
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My overall career ambition is to develop novel insights into breast cancer pathology to help improve clinical outcomes for sufferers. I...
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Department of Radiology, School of Clinical Medicine
Development of Zirconium-89 labelling and imaging of leukocytes for immuno-PET applications
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University of Cambridge
Department of Chemistry
My interest lies in applying Organic Synthesis to Biological Problems. Current projects include (a) biosynthesis of prodigiosin -...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Biochemistry
CRUK Cambridge Institute
Dr. David Lewis established and heads the Radionuclide Imaging Suite at the Cancer Research UK - Cambridge Institute. Dr Lewis's research...
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Radiology
MRIS Unit
I lead a Body MR research group developing novel clinical applications using magnetic resonance techniques. This includes developing and...
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Clinical translational research identifying patient selection and PK/PD biomarkers.
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University of Cambridge
Department of Radiology
(tbc)
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University of Cambridge
Department of Surgery
Neurooncology
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University of Cambridge
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
Honorary post in Radiology
I perform magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy studies of human tumours in vivo, to develop better methods of diagnosis and...
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Radiology
My research is focused on in-vivo imaging of tumour angiogenesis with positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (...
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David is a clinical oncologist and first year PhD student from the university computational radiotherapy research group, (www.comprt.org/...
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Radiology
MRIS Unit
I am employed as a Clinical Scientist to both support and initiate research within the Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy unit...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Engineering
Development of ultrafast fiber laser systems for medical applications, including surgery and imaging, such as coherent Raman microscopy.
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Radiology
MRI and MRS are highly complex, with the flexibility to be applied in many novel situations. My research focusses on developing and...
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University of Cambridge
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
Developing of imaging strategies to monitorizes oxigen comsuption and free radicals production in tumour models and traslational approaches.
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University of Cambridge
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
My research goal is the development of advanced non-linear imaging including multi-photon fluorescence imaging with fluorescence lifetime...
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University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Radiology
Frank completed his undergraduate studies at King's College London with research interests in the development of fluorescent nanoparticles...
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University of Cambridge
Department of Medicine
My research interests are primarily in atherosclerosis, but also cross into cancer biology. My focus is detection of inflammation within...
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Cancer Research UK Cancer Research Technologies (CRT), University of Cambridge
Department of Physics
CRUK Cambridge Institute
The aim of my work is to develop an imaging system incorporating hyperspectral imaging, polarized light imaging, and spatial frequency...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Radiology
I am interested in investigating imaging methods for assessing treatment response.
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University of Cambridge
Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
Dr Carola-Bibiane Schönlieb is head of the Cambridge Image Analysis Group (CIA) in DAMTP specialising in the mathematics of digital image...
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Despite medical advances, pancreatic cancer still has a 5-year survival rate of less than 6%. The ideal way to improve this is to diagnose...
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University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cancer Research UK Cancer Research Technologies (CRT)
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, Department of Clinical Neuroscience
CRUK Cambridge Institute
honorary researcher
Development of radiotracers for PET. Preclinical imaging with PET/CT, SPECT in cancer research. Translation of preclinical imaging to...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Physics, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
CRUK Cambridge Institute
Live cells and tissue analysis by vibrational spectroscopy.
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Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Medicine
Radiotherapy Physics. Computational Radiotherapy. Member of VoxTox research group.
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University of Cambridge
Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Department of Engineering
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Development of functional MRI techniques, including blood oxygenation level-dependent contrast and oxygen-enhanced MRI to assess tissue...
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University of Cambridge
Department of Physics
Application of nanodiamond defects and Raman microscopy to cancer cells as measurement tools
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(tbc)
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(tbc)
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Fulvio subspecialty field is neuroradiology with a keen interest in neuro-oncology and neurovascular imaging. He is currently working on...
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University of Cambridge
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
Light Microscopy Imaging
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