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Research overview

Dr Emma Harris, Imaging for Radiotherapy Adaptation team

Radiation treatments are planned using Computed Tomography (CT) scans of the patients. These images allow us to plan the radiation beam arrangement to target the cancer and avoid other tissues, based on the position of the anatomy at CT scanning. Changes in anatomy between CT scanning and treatment, and motion of tissues during radiation delivery means that the treatment may not be delivered exactly as planned. These changes decrease the accuracy of radiotherapy and increase the likelihood, and in some cases, the severity of treatment toxicity. By imaging the radiotherapy target, just prior to and during the treatment, we can ensure that the radiation is safely delivered as planned.  Furthermore, some cancers will respond to radiotherapy and some cancers may not respond. Clinicians would like to be able to understand, as soon as possible which tumours are responding and which are not, allowing them to alter the treatment for the best chance of success, or to stop the treatment if the patient will not benefit.

Dr. Harris’s team develops new image processing techniques, new implementations of established, and novel, ultrasound technologies to image soft tissues and to estimate their motion during therapy. Ultrasonic elastography and ultrasound backscatter characterisation techniques are being developed for the purpose of assessing the response of cancer and normal tissues to treatments of breast and head and neck cancers. The team, are exploring further integration of functional and molecular ultrasound imaging into the radiation treatment room techniques. Multi-parametric ultrasound imaging has potential to be an affordable and easily implantable method of monitoring tumour response to radiotherapy.

In collaboration with clinical colleagues at the Royal Marsden Hospital the team are currently testing a number of these techniques in clinical trials. These techniques enable more accurate delivery of radiation therapy that spares normal tissue from radiation damage and helps improve the efficacy of radiation therapy.

Dr. Harris is a state registered clinical scientist and is a member of the NCRI Breast Clinical Studies Group.


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