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Imaging and radiotherapy

The Institute of Cancer Research, London, works at the leading edge of imaging and precision radiotherapy. With state-of-the-art facilities and internationally renowned researchers, we are pioneering technologies to improve the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer, and to guide new forms of precision treatment.

Radiotherapy IMRT

Image: Radiotherapy IMRT (Credit: Jan Chlebik/the ICR)

The ICR and our partner hospital, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, have a long track record of practice-changing advances in radiotherapy.

We helped to pioneer image-guided radiation therapy, and a technique called intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), which shapes the radiation beam to the outline of tumours.

Now we’re going even further, with commitments under our research strategy to do the innovative physics needed to target radiation precisely, and to test out enhanced forms of precision radiotherapy in clinical trials.

The aim is to create new treatments that target tumours with pinpoint accuracy, and minimise the side-effects caused by damage to healthy tissue.

Pushing boundaries

The installation by the ICR and The Royal Marsden of one of the world’s most advanced radiotherapy machines, the MR Linac, gives us the capability to shape a radiotherapy beam to a tumour in real time, even as it moves in the body – for example, as a patient breathes.

At the same time, scientists in the ICR’s Centre for Cancer Imaging are pushing boundaries with the very latest in single and combined imaging technologies to visualise tumours precisely, and study their behaviour, physiology and growth.

Our molecular imaging capabilities are a vital tool in preclinical drug discovery and development. By using imaging in animal studies we can, for example, accurately evaluate whether a cancer drug candidate is hitting its target and having the predicted effect.

In future, doctors could use this information to see if tumours are responding to cancer treatments over time, and to adapt treatment accordingly – without the need for the patient to undergo multiple, uncomfortable biopsies.