A study looking at diffusion weighted MRI scans to see how well radiotherapy works for people with throat cancer (MeRInO)

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Head and neck cancers
Mouth (oral) cancer
Pharyngeal cancer





This study is for people with cancer in the part of the throat just behind the mouth (oropharynx) who are going to have radiotherapy treatment. 

It is for people going to the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.    

More about this trial

Cancers that start in the part of the throat just behind the mouth are called oropharyngeal cancers. These are usually treated with:

  • radiotherapy
  • combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy Open a glossary item).

But radiotherapy and chemoradiotherapy don’t always work and some cancers come back after treatment. 

In this study doctors are looking at a new type of MRI scan called diffusion weighted MRI (DW MRI). This measures the movement of water in body tissue. Changes in the movement of the water might help doctors know which cancers the radiotherapy is helping (the cancer is responding well to treatment). 

The people whose cancer is not responding well could be at increased risk of their cancer coming back. So in the future doctors could potentially use this information to increase the amount of treatment and improve the chances of the cancer being cured. 

The main aim of this study is to find out if a DW MRI scan can tell which cancers are responding well to radiotherapy. 

Who can enter

The following bullet points list the entry conditions for this study. Talk to your doctor or the study team if you are unsure about any of these. They will be able to advise you. 

You may be able to join this study if all of the following apply:

  • You have squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the oropharynx (stage 3, 4a or 4b
  • Your cancer has tested negative to the human papilloma virus (HPV) or it is HPV positive and you smoke or have smoked. The doctors will look at the number of cigarettes you smoke and the amount of time you have smoked for. This is called pack years and you need to have smoked for more than 10 pack years
  • You are going to have radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy to try to cure your cancer 
  • You are at least 18 years old

You cannot join this study if any of these apply:

  • Your cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the lung or bones (stage 4c) 
  • You have had surgery to remove the cancer 
  • You have had chemotherapy to try to shrink your cancer (induction chemotherapy)
  • You are going to have treatment with a combination of cetuximab and radiotherapy 
  • You are not able to have an MRI for any reason, for example you have metal implants such as a pacemaker, surgical clips, implants, pins, plates or you have a fear of being in closed spaces (claustrophobia)

Trial design

Researchers need about 80 people going to the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre to take part in this study. 

You have 2 DW MRI scans. This is similar to a normal MRI, but takes a little longer. It takes about 30 minutes in total. You have the scan:

  • on the first day of radiotherapy
  • during the 3rd week of radiotherapy

You don’t have to make a special trip for the scans. Both scans will be on days you have treatment. 

Taking part in this study does not affect the radiotherapy you have. This is exactly the same as if you were not in the study. Your doctor will explain your treatment and what you can expect.

Hospital visits

You do not have any extra hospital visits as part of this study. You have the scans when you are at the hospital having treatments that are part of your routine care. 

Side effects

MRI scans are very safe and the study team don’t think you should have any side effects. 

During the scan you have an injection of a contrast medium Open a glossary item called gadolinium. The most common side effects of gadolinium are:

  • feeling sick 
  • headaches
  • pain at the injection site

We have more information about MRI scans

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

Dr Claire Paterson 

Supported by

Beatson Cancer Charity
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer information nurses

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.

Last reviewed:

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