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 using MRI scans to find the stage of rectal cancer (The MERCURY Project)
This trial was trying to find out if an MRI scan could tell the stage of cancer of the
The stage of your cancer tells doctors how far the cancer has grown and if it has spread. It helps them decide which treatment is best for you. When you have surgery to remove rectal cancer, the surgeon sends the tissue that is removed to the laboratory. A laboratory report, along with other tests, confirms the stage of the cancer.
The aim of this trial was to see if doctors could use the results of an MRI scan before surgery to work out the stage of rectal cancer. The scan results were compared to the test results (laboratory reports) when the cancer was removed.
Summary of results
The researchers found that having an MRI scan before surgery was a reliable way of working out the stage of rectal cancer.
The trial recruited 408 people who had been diagnosed with rectal cancer. Everybody taking part had an MRI scan. The research team looked at the scans to see if it was likely that a specialist surgeon would be able to remove the cancer with an area of healthy tissue around it (
MRI scans for 349 people suggested that the surgeon should be able to get a clear margin. When they had surgery, laboratory reports showed that 327 of them did have clear margins. So the MRI scan was correct for 94% of these people.
When they published their results, the trial team said that MRI scans can give doctors the information they need to work out who should have radiotherapy before surgery. And who can safely have surgery alone. This stops people having treatment they don’t need.
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
Prof Gina Brown
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Pelican Cancer Foundation
Wessex Cancer Trust