A study using different types of MRI scans to look for risk factors for small cell lung cancer spread (CLUB 01)

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Cancer type:

Lung cancer
Small cell lung cancer





This study used different MRI scans to try and find factors that increase the risk of small cell lung cancer spreading to the brain.

Doctors often treat small cell lung cancer (SCLC) with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. You may also have radiotherapy to the brain. This is done to help prevent the cancer spreading to the brain and is called prophylactic cranial irradiation, or PCI.

But it’s difficult to tell who will be most at risk of cancer spreading to the brain. So some people may have radiotherapy they don’t really need. Researchers hoped that using different scans would tell them who would benefit most from radiotherapy to the brain, so they can decide who needs treatment.

The researchers in this study used 3 types of MRI scan which looked for changes in blood vessels, chemicals and water movement in brain cells. The scans were called magnetisation transfer imaging (MTR), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and diffusion weighted imaging (DWI).

The aim of this study was to find out whether these MRI scans can help doctors decide who has small cell lung cancer that is more likely to spread to the brain.

Summary of results

The research team found that these MRI scans couldn’t help to show who had small cell lung cancer that is more likely to spread to the brain.

This small study recruited 16 people with small cell lung cancer, and the research team were able to look at the scans for 12 of them. Just 2 of these 12 people had cancer that spread to the brain, so it was difficult for the research team to analyse the information.

The results showed there was no change in DWI or MRS scans between people who had cancer spread to the brain and those who didn’t. There was a small change in the MTR results of those people whose cancer had spread to the brain, and the research team hope this may be useful in the future.

The research team found it was difficult to draw any firm conclusions based on the small number of people in the study. But using these 3 scans, they were not able to define a group of patients with small cell lung cancer who would benefit most from radiotherapy to the brain.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the study.  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.

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Recruitment end:

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

Chief Investigator

Dr Susan Harden

Supported by

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)

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Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 4649

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

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

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