Mapping biomarkers for low-grade tumours using a MRI

Current standard treatment for low-grade diffuse gliomas involves surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible followed by a “watch and wait” policy – only starting further treatment when symptoms worsen or if imaging tests show the tumour has grown. It is vital that we develop more accurate ways of monitoring tumour growth in order to improve treatment plans, and ultimately improve outcomes for patients.

Scanning for biomarkers of low-grade tumour progression

Previous research has shown that in the parts of a tumour where the cells are multiplying rapidly there is a build-up of certain proteins. This build-up of proteins is therefore an important indicator of active tumour tissue. Conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans only detect tumour growth once the tumour has already expanded, because the build-up of proteins before tumour growth is invisible on these scans.

This project, led by Dr Marion Smits, aims to use a new and non-invasive MRI technique called Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (CEST) to visualise and measure protein build-up in low-grade diffuse gliomas. By measuring and monitoring protein build-up, researchers hope to be able to detect tumour growth and progression sooner, and therefore create more effective treatment plans.

Promoting accurate monitoring

This project is a collaboration between research groups at King's College London (UK) and the Erasmus Medical Centre (The Netherlands). Together the groups plan to develop a work flow that incorporates CEST imaging into the pre-surgical tests for patients with low-grade brain tumours, and will pave the way for including this type of testing in routine clinical practice.

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