Molecular imaging techniques are maturing rapidly. The development of probes that can examine cellular and molecular processes in vivo, and the shift of emphasis to translational and experimental medicine have led to massive interest in molecular imaging. New tracers and techniques are being developed for monitoring gene expression, stem cell tracking, cell signaling pathways etc. with applications across all medical specialties. PET is the key imaging modality for performing molecular imaging studies in man and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. However, advanced MRI techniques including dynamic contrast enhanced MRI, diffusion weighted MRI and MR spectroscopy, as well as optical imaging, dynamic contrast enhanced CT and US, and potential for combining different modalities are now under investigation. The use of PET imaging techniques to validate other modalities will see an increased, dual, use of radionuclide imaging and MR, CT, fluorescent and US imaging. The department of Cancer imaging is currently exploring all of these methods to ensure optimum techniques are used both for research and application to clinical practice
PET, nuclear medicine and radiology have always had close links with a range of users and research has been tied to clinical practice. This enables rapid translation of research into clinical practice. High platform PET, MRI and CT are now finding a role in disease response assessment. The link with the Cancer Imaging Centre across KCL and UCL has provided a large range of basic science information to increase the number of imaging tracers and development of applications and linkage with biological biomarkers and exploration of the link to cell pathways. There is also a strong methodology development programme looking at hybrid imaging with a particular emphasis on PET MRI combined imaging.
Radionuclide therapy is integrated within cancer imaging to support the development of targeted cancer treatment using radioactive isotopes. This approach is currently used to treat several different tumour types. Imaging plays a critical role in identifying appropriate patients for treatment, optimising therapeutic regimens and assessing response. The development of new targeted radionuclide treatments relies upon the discovery and characterisation of imaging tracers that can then be adapted for therapeutic use. Multi-modality imaging will underpin pre-clinical research programmes to explore the potential of different radiolabelled drug combinations and will direct subsequent clinical trial design. Other treatment options including radio embolization and high frequency ultrasound have also developed as the result of close cross specialty collaboration within the cancer imaging sciences.
The group also incorporates a large service provision ensuring the linkage between service and research is close to enable science to be moved rapidly into the clinic. There are also opportunities to examine and re-examine current practice and imaging pathways for a variety of cancers to identify evidence based research and to integrate health economics analysis in our research to ensure cost effective approaches to patient management.