UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences


Integrating Cancer Imaging Biomarker Clinical Research Across the UK

26 March 2020

UK National Cancer Imaging Translational Accelerator (NCITA) establishes infrastructure for validation and adoption of cancer imaging biomarkers as decision-making tools in clinical trials and NHS practice.


Researchers and medical experts from nine world-leading medical imaging centres across the UK, including UCL, have come together to form an integrated infrastructure for standardising and validating cancer imaging biomarkers for clinical use.  

As well as UCL, the centres include University of Manchester, University of Oxford, King’s College London, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College London, Cambridge University, Newcastle University and University of Glasgow.  This unique UK infrastructure provides clinical researchers across the UK with open access to world-class clinical imaging facilities and expertise, as well a repository data management service, artificial intelligence (AI) tools and ongoing training opportunities. 

The NCITA consortium, through engagement with NHS Trusts, pharmaceutical companies, medical imaging and nuclear medicine companies as well as funding bodies and patient groups, aims to develop a robust and sustainable imaging biomarker certification process, to revolutionise the speed and accuracy of cancer diagnosis, tumour classification and patient response to treatment.  

Professor Shonit Punwani, Chair of the NCITA governance group, and UCL Division of Medicine, said, “The UK is at the forefront of imaging research, with new techniques and technologies often making the news.  Yet, the pace of change in clinical practice remains painfully slow. To date we have been missing the infrastructure to deliver these new technologies to the clinic. NCITA fills this gap by defining a translational pipeline with the singular aim of making our discoveries fit for clinical application. This can only be done with a creative and collaborative approach across academia, industry and the NHS.”

The NCITA initiative is funded by Cancer Research UK and will receive £10 million over 5 years.

The NCITA network is led by Prof Shonit Punwani, Prof James O’Connor, Prof Eric Aboagye, Prof Geoff Higgins, Prof Evis Sala, Prof Dow Mu Koh, Prof Tony Ng, Prof Hing Leung and Prof Ruth Plummer with up to 49 co-investigators supporting the NCITA initiative.  NCITA is keen to expand and bring in new academic and industrial partnerships as it develops.


NCITA logo

MRI Imaging of patient with biopsy proven cancer
MRI imaging of patient with biopsy proven prostate cancer. 

The left image is an axial T2-weighted MRI image showing a homogenous low signal area in the left anterior para-midline transition zone of the prostate.  The right image is a novel VERDICT (Vascular, Extracellular and Restricted Diffusion for Cytometry in Tumours) MRI map at the same level showing a focal area (arrow) with increased intracellular volume fraction, which enables clearer definition of the tumour area