A state-of-the-art Pounds 1.5 million magnetic resonance scanner installed this week at the Royal Marsden National Health Service Trust will give cancer researchers better and more detailed information, writes Olga Wojtas.
Scientists funded by the Cancer Research Campaign at the Institute of Cancer Research and Royal Marsden, which together form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe, will use the latest technology for a new research programme focusing on tumours.
Janet Husband, co-director of the CRC clinical magnetic resonance group, said the scanner "heralds a new era in cancer detection", and could be valuable in combatting breast and prostate cancers, which account for more than 25,000 deaths each year in the United Kingdom.
Dr Husband said the scanner could be used to detect the effects of abnormal blood vessels before an abnormality was seen, so that cancer could be detected much earlier. It could also monitor whether breast tumours were responding to chemotherapy drugs before actual shrinkage could be detected.
The scanner also promises major advances in the spectroscopic techniques used to examine how drugs behave inside the body. Scientists are hoping to be able to look simultaneously at the drugs themselves and the effects they are having on cells, which could help determine why some treatments work better than others.
The Royal Marsden and ICR science and ethics committees have also approved a major new clinical trial following studies on a new method of bone marrow transplantation for the majority of patients who do not have suitable brother or sister donors.