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Researcher believes imaging is essential in improving cancer survival rates

An award-winning south London researcher believes that medical imaging will play an increasingly powerful role in improving cancer survival rates.

Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust Consultant Radiologist Dr Christina Messiou last year won The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) ‘Outstanding Clinical Radiology Researcher Award’ for her work on two imaging studies.

Christina said the use of imaging has an important role to play in the early detection of many cancers, as well as in helping to select the best treatment options for individual patients. She said:

“The radiology community is working tirelessly to ensure that patients have access to imaging that we know is important in improving outcomes. I believe that the influence of emerging informatics technologies will help us to realise that potential. Imaging data provides a fertile ground for artificial intelligence (AI) research and application, which can generate new knowledge, improve efficiency and enhance scan quality to deliver precision medicine.

“As a clinician in the NHS, I am all too aware of the challenges facing patients and doctors and that has underpinned and driven my research to develop practical solutions. I was really honoured to win an award that recognises the contribution that NHS consultants make to research and the value of protecting consultants’ time to undertake research.

“Whole body MRI is very sensitive for diagnosing myeloma and therefore this will be an important step towards improving early diagnosis. We know that early diagnosis and treatment of patients with myeloma improves survival rates. There is still a long way to go but our progress is tangible, with increasing numbers of hospitals adopting the technique. Moving forward, we are also working on AI techniques to facilitate adoption of whole body MRI in the UK.”

The PIRS study validated non-invasive MRI and machine learning techniques to measure the composition of sarcoma tumours before and after treatment. These MRI techniques, which provide an insight into the biology of cancers, are valuable because sarcomas can either remain stable or can increase in size, even though they may be responding to treatment. 

The iTIMM study looked at utilising whole body MRI to better identify any cancer remaining after treatment in myeloma patients.

According to Cancer Research UK, 50% of patients go on to survive cancer for 10 or more years. The rate has doubled from 24% over the last 40 years.

CRN South London’s Imaging Research Lead and Chair of the Royal College of Radiologists’ Academic Committee, Professor Vicky Goh said: “We are delighted that Dr Messiou’s innovative work and contribution has been recognised with this award. 

“Imaging plays an important role in the clinical management of NHS patients and imaging research is essential in ensuring that people receive the best evidence-based care.”