International alliance sets bold research ambition to detect the (almost) undetectable

Cancer Research UK| October  2019 | International alliance sets bold research ambition to detect the (almost) undetectable

Developing radical new strategies and technologies to detect cancer at its earliest stage is the bold ambition of a new transatlantic research alliance, announced today by Cancer Research UK and partners.

Cancer Research UK is setting out a bold ambition to jump-start this under-explored field of research, collaborating with teams of scientists from across the UK and the US.

The International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED) is a partnership between Cancer Research UK, Canary Center at Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, the OHSU Knight Cancer InstituteUCL and the University of Manchester.

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Scientists in the Alliance will work together at the forefront of technological innovation to translate research into realistic ways to improve cancer diagnosis, which can be implemented into health systems. Potential areas of research include: ​

  • Developing new improved imaging techniques and robotics, to detect early tumours and pre-cancerous lesions
  • Increasing understanding of how the environment surrounding a tumour influences cancer development
  • Developing less invasive and simpler detection techniques such as blood, breath and urine tests, which can monitor patients who are at a higher risk of certain cancers
  • Searching for early stress signals sent out from tumours or surrounding damaged tissue as a new indication of cancer
  • Looking for early signs of cancer in surrounding tissue and fluids to help diagnose hard to reach tumours
  • Harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence and big data to look for signs of cancer that are undetectable to humans.

As part of the Cancer Research UK’s early detection strategy, the charity will invest an essential cash injection of up to £40 million over the next five years into ACED. Stanford University and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute will also significantly invest in the Alliance, taking the total potential contributions to more than £55 million (Source: Cancer Research UK).

Full details of the project are available from Cancer Research UK

See also:

BMJ New UK and US research alliance aims to detect cancer earlier and improve screening

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Ultrasound breakthrough can pinpoint cancer with precision

Heriot Watt University | September 2019 | Ultrasound breakthrough can pinpoint cancer with precision

Experts at Heriot Watt University have found a new technique which uses super-resolution ultrasound methods that improves resolution of ultrasound images by 5-10 times compared to standard current ultrasound images.

Their innovation allows whole organs to be scanned in super-resolution for the first time which, it is anticipated, will lead to earlier cancer diagnoses and allow medical staff to more effectively target treatments to any malignant tissue. Potentially, it could eventually replace the need for biopsy altogether.

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The team behind this innovation  the aim is to start human trials using the new technique in three months’ time at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh. Patients with prostate issues will be the first to benefit from the enhanced imaging.

Professor Alan McNeill, Consultant Urological Surgeon at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh said: “Prostate cancer is an increasing problem for our society. Whilst we have a number of methods for detecting it, these don’t always provide us with the important information that we need regarding who has cancer that needs to be treated and who doesn’t.

“A method that maps the blood flow of the tumour accurately could well provide new information about the disease state that allows us to better identify those men who need urgent treatment and those who don’t. It is exciting that we will be the first hospital in the world that will assess this method with patients.” (Source: Heriot Watt University)

Read the full, unabridged press release from Heriot Watt University

Abstract

Objectives The aim of this study was to provide an ultrasound-based super-resolution methodology that can be implemented using clinical 2-dimensional ultrasound equipment and standard contrast-enhanced ultrasound modes. In addition, the aim is to achieve this for true-to-life patient imaging conditions, including realistic examination times of a few minutes and adequate image penetration depths that can be used to scan entire organs without sacrificing current super-resolution ultrasound imaging performance.

Methods Standard contrast-enhanced ultrasound was used along with bolus or infusion injections of SonoVue (Bracco, Geneva, Switzerland) microbubble (MB) suspensions. An image analysis methodology, translated from light microscopy algorithms, was developed for use with ultrasound contrast imaging video data. New features that are tailored for ultrasound contrast image data were developed for MB detection and segmentation, so that the algorithm can deal with single and overlapping MBs. The method was tested initially on synthetic data, then with a simple microvessel phantom, and then with in vivo ultrasound contrast video loops from sheep ovaries. Tracks detailing the vascular structure and corresponding velocity map of the sheep ovary were reconstructed. Images acquired from light microscopy, optical projection tomography, and optical coherence tomography were compared with the vasculature network that was revealed in the ultrasound contrast data. The final method was applied to clinical prostate data as a proof of principle.

Results Features of the ovary identified in optical modalities mentioned previously were also identified in the ultrasound super-resolution density maps. Follicular areas, follicle wall, vessel diameter, and tissue dimensions were very similar. An approximately 8.5-fold resolution gain was demonstrated in vessel width, as vessels of width down to 60 μm were detected and verified (λ = 514 μm). Best agreement was found between ultrasound measurements and optical coherence tomography with 10% difference in the measured vessel widths, whereas ex vivo microscopy measurements were significantly lower by 43% on average. The results were mostly achieved using video loops of under 2-minute duration that included respiratory motion. A feasibility study on a human prostate showed good agreement between density and velocity ultrasound maps with the histological evaluation of the location of a tumor.

Conclusions The feasibility of a 2-dimensional contrast-enhanced ultrasound-based super-resolution method was demonstrated using in vitro, synthetic and in vivo animal data. The method reduces the examination times to a few minutes using state-of-the-art ultrasound equipment and can provide super-resolution maps for an entire prostate with similar resolution to that achieved in other studies.

The original research is available in full from Investigative Radiology

In the news:

BBC News Ultrasound breakthrough ‘can spot cancer earlier’

Most-At-Risk Residents Of South Kirkby Reap The Benefits Of New Lung MOT​

West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance | July 2019 | Most-At-Risk Residents Of South Kirkby Reap The Benefits Of New Lung MOT​

Residents in South Kirby and Hemsworth between the age of 55 and 74 who smoke or used to smoke are being invited to be part of a targeted lung health check pilot programme led by the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance, in partnership with Yorkshire Cancer Research.

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This ‘Lung MOT’ involves patients receiving a half hour checkup where specially trained nurses at a GP Surgery assess their breathing and overall lung health, measure their height and weight; and may also conduct a breathing test to identify any problems that may need further attention. Patients are also given a six-year risk score calculation for developing lung cancer. Current smokers are then offered the opportunity to access the stop smoking service.

As part of this service a number of patients have also taken up the opportunity to access free advice and help to quit smoking which is being provided on site by specialist advisors. Evidence has shown that access to such support gives smokers the best possible chance of giving up (Source: West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance).

Read the full news story at West Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance

 

New device will protect prostate cancer patients during radiation treatment

An innovation that can reduce the side-effects of radiotherapy for prostate cancer patients by over 70 per cent will be rolled out across the NHS, as part of the Long Term Plan to put cutting-edge treatments at the heart of people’s care.

Thanks to a deal struck by the NHS with manufacturer Boston Scientific, hospitals in England will now be encouraged to use its hydrogel device for all patients who could benefit, making radiotherapy a safer and less painful treatment option for many men.

The hydrogel acts as a spacer, reducing the amount of radiation that can pass through the prostate and damage the rectum during treatment, by temporarily positioning it away from the high dose radiation used in treatment.

The gel, made mostly of water, is injected before treatment starts and then remains in place during radiation therapy, before being naturally absorbed by the body after about 6 months.

In studies, its use has been shown to relatively reduce life-changing side effects, such as rectal pain, bleeding and diarrhoea, by over 70%, meaning significant improvements in quality of life for those battling prostate cancer.

Full story at NHS England

New drive to improve care and save lives

Professor Sir Mike Richards has launched a major overhaul of cancer screening as part the NHS Long Term Plan’s renewed drive to improve care and save lives | via NHS England

Early detection of cancer, while the condition is easier to treat, is central to the plan which aims to prevent tens of thousands more deaths each year. Sir Mike Richards, who was the NHS’ first cancer director and is the former CQC chief inspector of hospitals, is leading an independent review of national screening programmes.

He will recommend how they should be upgraded to ensure they remain world leading and that patients benefit from new technologies and treatments.

As part of his work, Sir Mike wants to hear views and ideas from staff, patients and other groups to inform recommendations for the future of cancer screening.

Sir Mike is seeking feedback on a number of areas including:

  • Future management, delivery and oversight of screening programmes
  • How to ensure maximum screening uptake across the country and particularly in vulnerable and minority groups
  • Opportunities for the use of AI and other technology to help with cancer screening
  • Feedback on current and future IT and equipment
  • Having the right number of staff with the right training to deliver the programmes
  • Views on what screening should look like in ten years’ time

Full story at NHS England

Breast Cancer Care launches Alexa tool to help women spot key signs

Breast Cancer Care (BCC) has launched a virtual tool on Amazon’s Alexa which shares information on the signs and symptoms of breast cancer | via Digital Health

The tool can help guide women through a breast check and highlight the eight most common signs and symptoms of breast cancer to look out for.

Addie Mitchell, clinical nurse specialist at BCC, told Digital Health News that she hoped the digital tool would help give women more confidence to check for breast cancer. She said: “It gives them the confidence and assurance of being able to check in their own home. Checking for symptoms of breast cancer can cause a lot of anxiety as they don’t know what to look for, but the Alexa tool can help by listing the eight common ones.”

Mitchell added that the Alexa tool will also prompt users who may think they have one or more of the symptoms to get it checked out by their GP.

Full story at Digital Health

Personalised cancer care

This report considers how a better collection and use of data can significantly improve cancer outcomes | Reform

This report finds that a more effective use of data could bring about much-needed improvements in cancer care. The new model of cancer care proposed in this paper looks at how data could be examined and used at every stage of the treatment journey, from prevention and diagnosis through to treatment and recovery. Making better use of data will not only improve cancer outcomes but will also enable the NHS to manage the disease far more effectively, now, and in the future.

The cancer dashboard, currently run by Public Health England, is an online interface for all cancer related information. Going forward, the authors recommend the dashboard  be extended to become the single point of access for cancer outcomes data in England.

Alongside an improved cancer dashboard, the report also recommends data must be shared effectively and promptly between different stakeholders to ensure patients have the best possible care experience. This is especially important in cancer care as a patient normally interacts with many different parts of the health service.

Full report: A data-driven approach to personalised cancer care | Reform