£10m grant for UCL/KCL cancer imaging centre

11 December 2008

UCL has been awarded (with KCL) a grant of £10m from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) to set up a Comprehensive Cancer Imaging Centre (CCIC). The grant, awarded by an international panel of experts and to be paid over a period of five years, is part of a new strategic initiative that will establish the UK as a world leader in cancer imaging research, and help improve the detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

UCL Cancer Institute

CRUK and the EPSRC are investing a total of £45 million in a nationwide initiative that will see the development and introduction of the latest imaging technologies to help advances in basic and clinical cancer research. The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department of Health have also contributed to the sum. The other institutions awarded similar grants include Imperial College London, the Institute of Cancer Research, and the University of Oxford, and five cancer imaging research programmes will also be set up at other institutions.

Professor Richard Begent (UCL Oncology and the UCL Cancer Institute) and Professor David Hawkes (UCL Department of Computer Science and the UCL Centre for Medical Image Computing) are two of the four Principal Investigators (PIs) at the King’s College London and UCL cancer imaging centre. Professor Begent says: “Investing in this important area is vital for improving many aspects of a cancer patient’s journey – from detection to treatment.”

Professor Tony Ng, one of the KCL PIs, added: “We’re delighted to have been awarded this grant to further our research in cancer imaging. One of the main objectives of our cancer imaging centre is to develop and provide a comprehensive range of imaging technologies which, when combined with molecular and genetic information, will begin to accurately characterise individual patients for the ultimate goal of personalised therapy.”

The new CCIC will serve as a focal point for world-class research using a variety of imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography). Experts at the centre will develop new imaging techniques and uses for existing advanced imaging technologies, including imaging equipment that allow scientists to watch cells in action by tracing radioactive markers injected into the patient’s body. These techniques will enable doctors to see therapies at work, identifying earlier which treatments work best for which patients. Some scanning techniques can even provide whole-body images, enabling clinicians to see where cancers have spread and decide whether surgery, radiotherapy or drugs will be the most effective treatment. Traditional imaging techniques, such as X-ray, CT and ultrasound, will also be developed and refined at the new centres. 

Professor David Delpy, chief executive of the EPSRC, said: “Such a large investment in this exciting and extremely important area of research is great news. These centres will bring together scientists, engineers and clinicians interested in all aspects of imaging research, speeding up advances in new technologies and benefiting patients too.”

Discoveries made through the initiative will be protected by Cancer Research Technology– the business arm of Cancer Research UK. A business manager will be assigned to each centre or programme to work with the pharmaceutical industry, establishing the best commercial model to ensure new discoveries become available to cancer patients.

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