A study comparing MRI scan with CT scan in bowel cancer

Cancer type:

Bowel (colorectal) cancer
Colon cancer





This study compared MRI scans and CT scans in bowel cancer to see which was more accurate in helping doctors see how far a cancer had spread.

More about this trial

Doctors often use CT scans to check if bowel cancer has spread. MRI scans are much better at showing the slight differences between body tissues. But in the past MRI scans have been slow and the images have not been the best when looking at bowel cancer.

The Royal Marsden Hospital has a more powerful MRI scan that can provide a much better picture of the bowel. The researchers compared the images from this more powerful MRI scan with images from a CT scan.

The aim of this study was to find out if the new MRI scan was better than a CT scan in helping doctors to see if bowel cancer had spread.

Summary of results

The study team found that the images from the MRI scan and CT scan were similar. 

Of the 55 people who took part in this study:

  • 2 people had a  CT scan and 1 MRI scan before surgery 
  • 53 people had a CT scan and 2 MRI scans before surgery

2 doctors who specialise in reading scans (radiologists) looked at the scans of each person separately. Overall for both radiologists there was no significant difference between the CT scan or MRI scans in being able to see how far the cancer had spread. 

The team doesn’t recommend that MRI scan is used instead of CT scan. But an MRI scan might be useful alongside a CT scan in certain situations. For example when a patient can’t have the contrast medium Open a glossary item used for the CT scan. 

We have based this summary on information from the research team.  As far as we are aware, the information they sent us has not been reviewed independently (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) or published in a medical journal yet. The figures we quote above were provided by the research team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Gina Brown

Supported by

Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
Wellcome Trust
The Bowel Disease Research Foundation

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Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Charlie took part in a trial to try new treatments

A picture of Charlie

“I think it’s really important that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”

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