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Monitoring Low grade tumour progression

Fast Facts

  • Title: Making the invisible visible: In vivo mapping of molecular biomarkers in adult diffuse glioma with CEST MRI
  • Lead Researchers: Dr Marion Smits
  • Where: Erasmus Medical School
  • When: December 2018- December 2020
  • Cost: £119,250 over a 2 year period
  • Research type: Adult, Low Grade, Clinical

What is it?

Previous research has shown that in parts of a tumour where the cells are multiplying rapidly, there’s a build-up of certain proteins. This project will use a new and non-invasive imaging technique called Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (CEST) to visualise and measure protein build-up in low grade diffuse gliomas.

By measuring and monitoring protein build-up, researchers hope to be able to detect tumour growth and progression sooner and create more effective treatment plans.

The research team will then confirm their findings by comparing the images with protein measurements made from biopsies taken during surgery. This will show that the imaging technique accurately shows where the protein build-up is high and low within the tumour.

What is CEST imaging?

MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging is the use of magnetic fields to build three-dimensional images of areas inside the body. But conventional MRI scans only detect tumour growth once the tumour has already expanded.

CEST imaging is a technique that uses the same principles as conventional MRI but is made more sensitive to certain types of proteins found in the body. This sensitivity allow researchers to visualise the build-up of proteins and other substances.

Why is it important?

Low grade diffuse gliomas are generally slow growing but have the potential to transform into more aggressive, high grade brain tumours. The current standard of treatment for these tumours involves surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by a ’watch and wait’ policy – only starting further treatment when symptoms worsen or imaging tests, such as MRIs, show that the tumour has grown.

It’s vital that we develop more accurate ways of monitoring tumour growth in order to improve treatment plans, and ultimately improve outcomes for patients.

Who will it help?

This project will help people who have been or will be diagnosed with low grade diffuse gliomas. It will help improve tumour surgery and optimise treatment plans.

My work is focused at bringing new, advanced imaging techniques into clinical practice in order to improve the diagnosis and surveillance of brain tumours. I aim to provide more certainty to the patients and treating physicians about diagnosis, prognosis, and the effect of treatment.


  • Upcoming
    • The research team will optimise the imaging technique and start the recruitment of patients.

Research is just one other way your regular gift can make a difference

Research is the only way we will discover kinder, more effective treatments and, ultimately, stamp out brain tumours – for good! However, brain tumours are complex and research in to them takes a great deal of time and money.

Across the UK, over 100,000 families are facing the overwhelming diagnosis of a brain tumour and it is only through the generosity of people like you can we continue to help them.

But, by setting up a regular gift – as little as £2 per month - you can ensure that families no longer face this destructive disease.

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"My inspiration originally came directly from my work in the Brain Tumour Centre at Erasmus MC, where I saw the immense effort and dedication of the clinical team to treat and support people with a brain tumour. Since then, I continue to be deeply inspired by the patients who are so willing to participate in scientific research, thereby helping others affected by brain tumour in the future." Dr Marion Smits