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Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute


Pre-clinical imaging is a collaborative facility that manages a wide range of imaging machines.


IVIS 200 and IVIS lumina imaging systems (Caliper Lifesciences) are available for whole-animal in vivo photonic imaging, including sensitive and relatively high-throughput in vivo bioluminescence imaging. Typical scans take less than one minute and up to five subjects can be imaged at a time.


We have two Varian MRI systems; a 9.4T with higher sensitivity, and a 7T whose smaller susceptibility effects make it more suitable for techniques such as echo-planar imaging. Both perform 1H MRI and multi-nuclear MRS, assisted by integrated monitoring, gating, heating and anaesthesia. Our Hypersense system is now routinely producing a wide range of hyperpolarised substrates for high-sensitivity 13C in vivo tumour metabolism studies, which employ fast spectroscopic imaging sequences. We have implemented improved 1H MRS methods that minimise chemical shift artefacts and we are developing quantitative MT-MRI and motion-insensitive DW-MRI methods for autochthonous pancreatic tumours, which are subject to respiratory and cardiac motion. We also carry out 31P MRS to assess tumour pH and energetics, dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI to assess tumour perfusion, and multi-mouse anatomical imaging in support of PET studies. We are developing software to improve compatibility between data from different imaging instruments and implement a database to store data from all our modalities.

Radiotracer methods

The institute has a NanoScan PET/CT (Mediso, Hungary) and a NanoSPECT (Bioscan, USA) system for multimodality radionuclide imaging, providing the best sensitivity of any in vivo imaging system and allowing non-invasive assessment of pharmacological (target tissue exposure, target engagement and functional activity) and biological processes (blood flow, perfusion and metabolism). These scanners can resolve nanolitre volumes (about 0.4 mm for SPECT and 1 mm for PET) and so are ideal for small animal imaging.

Radionuclide imaging probes currently available for PET include [18F]FDG, [18F]FLT, [18F]FMISO, [18F]FET and [11C]acetate. These molecules are being characterised in relevant preclinical models of cancer and used to measure early response of tumours to therapy. The Brindle laboratory are investigating the C2A domain of synaptotagmin, labelled with 99mTc and 111In for SPECT, as a novel probe for detection of tumour cell death following treatment and the use of [11C]acetate for imaging fatty acid synthesis in prostate and lung cancer. Recently a radiolabelling and radioanalytics laboratory was established within the Institute and we are investigating multimodal approaches for the integrated molecular imaging of cancer.


The facility is based on a Bruker 600MHz NMR instrument. High resolution 1H, 13C and 31P NMR studies are performed routinely on solution samples. An HRMAS 1H and 31P NMR probe allows biochemical analysis of intact ex vivo clinical and preclinical biopsies. Ongoing collaborations include studies on cellular senescence (Narita laboratory), metabolism of prostate cancer (Neal laboratory) and metabolism of ovarian cancer (Brenton laboratory). With the Tavaré laboratory we are developing metabolite correlation methods to interpret the biochemical data.


We have two Vevo 2100 systems and one Vevo 770 system (Visualsonics). These image to as low as 30 micron resolution, providing excellent anatomical and soft tissue structural detail instantaneously and in real-time, and also permit rapid 3D imaging and dynamic vascular imaging with power Doppler and non-linear contrast.

We will be installing new hardware in the coming year to enable non-invasive photoacoustic imaging, a relatively new imaging approach that uniquely combines advantageous features of optical imaging (high sensitivity) with acoustic imaging (high resolution), giving rise to new imaging possibilities.