Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial looking at diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to assess brain tumours
This trial was looking to see if a new type of scan is useful to assess brain tumours.
Brain tumours are often assessed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. MRI scans give a picture of where the tumour is in the brain. This helps doctors to decide which treatment is best, and if it is possible to remove the tumour with an operation.
But MRI scans do not show where the nerve pathways are in the brain. As this doesn’t show up on MRI, doctors cannot be absolutely sure where the nerve pathways and white matter tracts are in relation to the tumour. So one of the risks of having an operation to remove a brain tumour is that a nerve pathway may be damaged.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a new type of scan that does show the white matter tracts and the nerve pathways. If surgeons can see where the nerve pathways are compared to the brain tumour, they can plan surgery more accurately and prevent damage to the white matter tracts during the operation.
The aim of this trial was to see if DTI scans are useful for patients due to have an operation to remove a brain tumour.
Summary of results
The research team found that DTI scans are useful for getting a more detailed picture of the brain.
The trial recruited 64 people with brain tumours. They all had an MRI scan and a DTI scan before their operation.
The research team looked at the scans together, and found that they could see white matter tracts, and therefore see where the nerves are. They also found they could see the difference between normal tissue and areas of tumour growth more clearly.
They could also to tell the difference between a glioblastoma that started in the brain and a tumour that spread to the brain from another part of the body (metastases) more clearly.
They concluded that it was early days for this new technique, but that it may be useful for planning treatment in the future.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Chris Clark
Cancer Research UK