MRI technique ready for clinical trials

Lung cancer is one of the most common and serious types of cancer and around 44,500 people are diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK. There is now a clinical study which is aiming to identify whether a whole body MRI scan will be able to replace an array of other tests for diagnosing non-small cell variants of lung cancer.

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Normally, your doctor would carry out a test to see if you have cancer; this would be followed by more tests to see the size of your tumour and whether it has begun to spread to other locations beyond the lungs. The doctor needs this information to know what stage of lung cancer you are at and what treatment to recommend.

MRI scan

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a way of creating detailed images of your internal organs. You lie on a bed which passes through a tunnel-shaped scanner. This scanner is open at both ends. You will need to keep perfectly still. The scanning times vary depending on the cause of the scan. You will wear earphones, because the scanner is very noisy, but music can be played if requested.

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The new study shows that an MRI can measure tumours in the body. This is done by measuring the movement of water in and out of tumour cells during the scan. The measurement is called Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) and varies by less than 10% across all the patients tested. This was not affected across the different hospitals or equipment and software used. Larger tumours showed only a 4% variance. Normally in MRI scans, you are asked to hold your breath at different stages of the scan, but in this study, you could breathe normally.


Clinical trials that evaluate a device are known as adaptive phase 1 clinical studies, and this study proves that measuring ADC values can be done reliably using repeat MRI scans in a multi-centre setting. It has been proven that despite differences in the technology between hospitals, multi-centre lung cancer trials can proceed.

The aim of the study is to prove whether using whole body MRI is better and faster at determining the stage of lung cancer than the tests currently in use. It will also evaluate the cost difference between using an MRI scan to the tests already used.a