Monitoring cancer treatments with MRI scanning
Professor Kevin Brindle based at our Cambridge Research Institute is a leading expert in the field of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). He is at the forefront of developing this technology so that it can be used to monitor how well cancer patients are responding to treatment. This has the potential to revolutionise the way researchers test new cancer drugs in clinical trials. It may also help doctors to establish which treatment works best for each individual patient.
Developing imaging probes
Professor Brindle's work aims to use MRI to find out if the drugs given to a patient are killing their cancer cells at a vital early stage of their treatment. To achieve this, he is developing a variety of small 'molecular probes' that specifically latch on to dying cancer cells. The team have already shown that these probes can enhance the MRI scan sufficiently to be able to see drugs working within tumours.
Professor Brindle is currently developing new probes that home in on tumour blood vessels, in order to evaluate new drugs called 'angiogenesis inhibitors'. These drugs are designed to work by blocking blood vessel growth and starving the tumour cells of essential nutrients and oxygen.
A new highly-sensitive technique
The researchers are now investigating a new cutting-edge technique that boosts the sensitivity of MRI by more than 10,000 times. Professor Brindle has already shown that it is possible to use this advanced technology to track chemical reactions going on inside cancer cells and use this new approach to find out if cells are dying in response to drug treatment.
The team has also used this super-sensitive MRI technique to detect differences in acidity between normal cells and cancer cells. If this approach can be routinely applied to patients in the clinic, it will be an extremely powerful tool for detecting cancers when they are extremely small, improving early diagnosis.
Listen to an interview with Professor Brindle talking about his research: