October 14, 2008

Scots University’s Imaging Technology Research Given GBP 1.4m Funding Boost

By Christopher Mackie

The grant is part of a GBP 50 million nationwide programme that will see funding given for imaging technology research undertaken in five UK universities.

The money will be provided by Cancer Research UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with research assistance coming from the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health.

The investment will allow St Andrews researchers to carry out a five-year programme of development on the cancer detection technique which can help doctors identify cancerous cells, determine how advanced the cancer is and establish the precise location to better direct any surgery that may be deemed necessary.

The technology is also used to inform clinical decisions over what treatment is appropriate for patients - be it surgical, radiotherapy or drugs - and to check if cancer has returned to the patient at a later date.

Commenting on the award, Professor Simon Herrington, the lead scientist at St Andrews University cancer imaging programme, said: "We're delighted to have been awarded this grant to further our research in cancer imaging. Investigation in this important area is vital for improving many aspects of a cancer patient's journey - from detection to treatment."

The large increase in funding for the specific improvement of imaging techniques was backed by the chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Harpal Kumar.

He said: "Imaging is fast becoming one of the most effective means of detecting cancer early and of determining which treatment works for which patient.

"Cancer Research UK has identified imaging research as a priority and we believe this substantial investment over the next five years will reap many benefits."

The charity and EPSRC said they hoped the investment would lead to the UK becoming a world leader in the research of cancer imaging.

As well as techniques to locate cancer, refinements to traditional imaging technology, such as ultrasound and X-rays, will also be investigated at the new specialist centres.

In addition to the research at St Andrews, the funding will see scientists, engineers and clinicians team up at Newcastle University, Sheffield University, the Royal Surrey County Hospital and the Childhood Cancer and Leukaemia Group at Birmingham University.

The charity announced that four existing cancer research centres, including the Institute of Cancer Research and Oxford University, would also benefit from support.

And as well as research support, the Medical Research Council announced that it would provide GBP 2 million for a particle accelerator to complement the research at Oxford.

The cyclotron machine will be used to make radioactive tracers for cancer research.

Imaging technology in health has been a source of news in the past few months.

In September, the British Nuclear Medicine Society warned that a global shortage of medical isotopes, the radioactive chemicals used in medical scanning, would lead to delays among patients awaiting an imaging procedure.

And in May, the Royal Bank of Scotland announced it would donate a GBP 1.6 million Toshiba Aquilion One CT scanner to NHS Lothian and the Queen's Medical Research Institute, on condition that RBS staff could privately use 25 per cent of the machine's capacity.

The controversial announcement led to a row over the place of private funding in the National Health Service.

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