Head and neck patients tested in first of three oxygen-enhanced MRI studies at The Christie

A father from Cheshire has become one of the first patients in the world to take part in a study by researchers working at The Christie, Manchester, to measure the amount of oxygen in their tumour.

Hypoxic cancers are more challenging to treat successfully, particularly when radiotherapy is given. By measuring the amount of oxygen in a tumour in real-time, it is hoped that cancer treatment can be altered to target hypoxic tumours more effectively.

Steven Brown from Poynton took part in the study, along with 10 other head and neck cancer patients at The Christie.

Brown was first diagnosed with cancer in his throat and tonsils in August 2022 at Macclesfield District General Hospital after becoming aware of a strange sensation at the back of his throat. “The news knocked me to the floor,” he said. “I was referred to The Christie for chemotherapy and radiotherapy that September. On one of my early visits, I was approached by Dr John Gaffney to see if I would be interested in taking part in the research study. He explained that they wanted to combine a normal MRI scan with the introduction of oxygen to hopefully learn more about cancer and be able to treat it better.

“Having lost my mum and dad to cancer, I wanted to do something to help people in the future.”

The research team has adapted the MR-linac at the cancer centre to measure tumour oxygen levels. Oxygen-enhanced MRI reveals which parts of a tumour are oxygen starved and likely to be resistant to radiotherapy. For the study Brown first breathed room air through a mask and then pure oxygen to bathe the tumour with the gas. He was scanned on the MR-linac during this and maps of oxygen levels were obtained.

“Although I won’t directly benefit from this study, I know that taking part will help cancer patients in the future, and that is a great thing,” Brown continued. “It is only through people volunteering to participate in clinical studies in the past that doctors and scientists have been able to develop the cancer treatments we have today.”

Senior group leader Professor James O’Connor at The Christie, The University of Manchester and The Institute of Cancer Research said: “Although it is clear more work needs to be done, we are very excited about the potential this technology has to enable daily monitoring of tumour oxygen, and we hope to be at a point soon when the technology will guide cancer doctors in how they can best deliver radiotherapy.

“This imaging lets us see inside tumours and helps us understand why some people with cancer need an extra boost to get effective treatment. This is an important step towards the goal of changing treatment based on imaging biology.”

Two further oxygen-enhanced MRI studies will take place on the MR-linac at The Christie. The Bio-CHECC study will focus on patients with locally advanced cervical cancer and the Hyprogen study will image patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Picture: Steven Brown was one of 11 patients in the study.

Published on page 18 of the June 2023 issue of RAD Magazine.

You might also like

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read more