A trial looking to improve brain surgery using imaging (HELICoiD B)

Cancer type:

Brain (and spinal cord) tumours





This trial looked at whether scans called hyperspectral imaging can improve brain surgery.

The trial was open for people to join between 2016 and 2017. The team published the results in 2018.

More about this trial

Surgery is a common treatment for brain tumours. During the operation the surgeon looks at the brain to identify normal brain tissue and tumour cells. But sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference.

Being able to tell the difference between healthy cells and tumour cells helps them to not remove: 

  • more brain tissue than they need to, possibly causing side effects
  • less brain tissue than they need to, leaving some tumour cells behind

Researchers hoped that hyperspectral imaging will help show the difference between them. And that this will help make surgery more accurate. 

Hyperspectral imaging uses a special spectral camera to take pictures during the operation. The surgeon removes small samples from the brain where the pictures are taken. This is to see which areas are tumour, and which are healthy tissue. 

The main aim of the trial was to find out how tumour cells and healthy brain cells look on hyperspectral images.

Summary of results

The research team were able to compare hyperspectral images of brain tumours and healthy brain tissue. They found that these images may be useful in helping to identify brain tumours during surgery.

Trial design
Everyone taking part in this trial was due to have an operation for either a brain tumour or epilepsy. A total of 31 people took part.

The trial was done in 2 parts. 

The main aim of part 1 was to help make sure they were taking, processing and analysing the tissue samples the right way. This is important to make sure the test is as accurate as possible. There were 23 people in this part of the trial.

The main aim of part 2 was to see how useful hyperspectral imaging is. There were 8 people in this part of the trial.

The research team analysed a total of 246 samples:

  • 202 tumour samples
  • 44 samples of healthy brain cells


The team studied the information from hyperspectral images. And they analysed the cells in a lab to see if they were cancer cells or not. They then linked this information together. From this they worked out which hyperspectral image results were most likely to mean the cells are cancerous.

They put all the results of the hyperspectral imaging from part 1 and part 2 together. This gave them information about the differences between healthy cells and tumour cells. They call this a data set, and it can be used by researchers and doctors in the future.

The research team concluded that hyperspectral imaging may be a useful way to diagnose brain tumours during surgery. But this was a small trial and they suggest more work is done. 

The recommend further trials looking at using hyperspectral imaging for different tumour types. 

Where this information comes from    
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves

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

Mr Diederik Bulters

Supported by

European Commission 
Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust

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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