[Press and Publications] Discipline Hopping: University of Leicester BioImaging Unit Breaks New Ground in Cancer Treatment



June 2001

No. 75

A research project in the University of Leicester Space Research Centre using techniques developed for space research in the treatment of cancer, has received a Medical Research Council (MRC) Discipline Hopping Award.

One of only 24 out of 64 applicants to receive the MRC award, the Leicester discipline-hopping team, Dr John Lees and Professor George Fraser, head the University’s BioImaging Unit. The funding is for research they are carrying out in collaboration with Andrea Murray, of the Queen’s Medical Centre, University of Nottingham.

They will investigate the use of a microchannel plate imager for visualising high-energy radionuclides, used in treating cancer.

Radioimmunotherapy uses antibodies to carry therapeutic radiation directly to cancer cells, while normal cells are protected from its toxic effects. Such treatment has shown promise in tackling various cancers, including breast, bladder and ovary. However, currently available techniques make it difficult to visualise the effectiveness of this approach at the tumour level.

The microchannel plate technology underpinning the imager was developed within the Space Research Centre for cameras used on the Chandra satellite, now in space and used for X-ray astronomy. Its imager, sensitive to beta particles as well as X-rays, would seem to be ideal for detecting radiolabelled antibodies within tumour cells.

The research collaboration will assess the performance of the microchannel plate camera as part of the development of a radiolabelled antibody being developed at Nottingham for the treatment of bladder cancer, with the ultimate goal of using it to monitor the effectiveness of radiotherapy treatment.

Dr Lees said: “This is exactly the type of research that was envisaged when we set up the BioImaging Unit, creating a bridge between physics and the biological community.”

Dr Lees is the University of Leicester BioImaging Research Fellow and leads the work of the BioImaging Unit that he established in August 1999.

Note to editors: Further information and images are available from Dr John Lees, BioImaging Research Fellow, University of Leicester, telephone +44 (0)116 252 5519, email lee@star.le.ac.uk.


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