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Saving lives with a new scanning technique

Fast facts

  • Official title: Improving the scans of children with brain cancer through identifying biomarkers of survival in brain tumour tissue
  • Lead researcher: Professor Andrew Peet
  • Where: University of Birmingham
  • When: March 2014 - October 2019
  • Cost: £97,274. Co-funded with Action Medical Research
  • Research type: Paediatric, Glioma (Low Grade), Academic and Clinical, Translational

A new scanning technique called MRS could diagnose tumours more precisely in children, helping to identify the most appropriate treatment.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham, led by Professor Andrew Peet, are developing a new technique, known as Magic Angle Spinning Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. This method will detect chemicals within the brain that indicate the severity of a tumour.

Currently, brain tumours are identified with an MRI scan and then a biopsy sample is sent to a lab to be analysed. This new technique will provide a faster and less invasive means of identifying different grades of tumour.

The team hope that this method will enable childhood tumours to be diagnosed with greater precision, meaning that children diagnosed with more aggressive tumours can immediately be given the most intensive treatments.

In many cases, childhood brain tumours lead to long term neurological damage, caused by both the tumour and side effects of therapy. It is hoped that this scanning technique will lead to personalisation of treatments, ensuring that patients with less severe tumours will be spared the damaging effects of harsh treatments.

Over 62% of children affected by a brain tumour are left with a life-altering, long term disability such as loss of vision, learning difficulties and problems with movement. It is essential that we develop ways to develop treatment that is tailored to the patient in order to increase survival and reduce unnecessary side effects.

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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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