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10 out of 10 - ten of the greatest health-changing research studies, to have taken place in North Thames over ten years of the CRN

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The NIHR Clinical Research Network was formed 10 years ago, in April 2014. To reflect on its mission to support clinical research, we are taking this opportunity to look back on the 10 years of its existence, and revisit some of the incredible research to emerge in the region that has had an impact on treatments and on the health and wellbeing of patients across the UK.

Which aspect of health did this research focus on?


What was the study investigating?

This study evaluated different ways of diagnosing Crohn’s disease (CD) that would not increase a patient’s risk of developing cancer by exposure to x-rays.

Why does it matter?

Crohn’s disease (CD) is a painful chronic inflammatory bowel disease, requiring lifelong medical and surgical therapy.

Over 115,000 people are diagnosed with CD every year in the UK.

Imaging tests such as CT scanning are used to diagnose and monitor patients but these can expose patients to x-rays which increase the risk of cancer.

What did the study do?

The ‘METRIC’ study tested to see whether a specialised MRI (called a MR enterography) and an intestinal ultrasound, neither of which involve dangerous x-rays, could accurately diagnose CD.

284 newly diagnosed and relapsed CD patients who had already had standard investigations, were then scanned using these methods to determine if they could be as effective at identifying CD.

What did we learn?

The study found that both the specialised MRI and intestinal ultrasound were highly accurate in detecting small bowel CD.

The findings were published in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

How has it benefited patient healthcare and treatments?

This research has led to a change in NHS practice, and tests using x-rays are now being replaced by the alternatives, potentially preventing around 25-30 radiation-induced cancers per year.

The tests are also more cost-effective, saving money for the NHS.

What next?

This study prompted further research which has led to development of new imaging software that can help clinicians see how the small bowel responds to treatment to improve and optimise treatment for individuals.