Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - MITRAC (Molecular imaging for translational research applications in cancer)

Molecular imaging is an exciting research area that aims to provide a non-invasive means of assessing pathways, processes and interactions that play a critical role in the development of major diseases and their treatment. This approach is playing a rapidly growing role in the diagnosis and evaluation of disease, the development and clinical trials of novel therapeutics and the identification of appropriate patients for these novel treatments.

The aim of the MITRAC programme was to provide training in the methodology and application of different types of molecular imaging, the so called multi-modality molecular imaging (MMMI). This was accomplished by training six fellows, including four PhD's and one clinical fellow, in the methodology and application of MMMI in translational cancer research, under the following four research themes:

1. cellular imaging assays
2. tracer development
3. combined optical and acoustic imaging, and
4. mass spectrometry tissue imaging.

The individual research projects were driven by specific biological or clinical questions, each requiring the fellow to understand the nature of the problem and how various imaging modalities could help provide an answer. Each fellow focussed in-depth on one or two techniques during their research project, but also gained experience from different techniques which were not used in their individual projects. The multidisciplinary nature of the team in which each of the fellows studied ensured a broad knowledge of the different subjects involved.

The fellows benefited from the training provided by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) excellent training infrastructure. They had the opportunity to attend Masters level short courses, covering a range of imaging modalities, including radiotherapy, magnetic resonance (MR), ultrasound, radiology, nuclear medicine and radiation protection, along with lectures in basic science, e.g. biology, physics, pharmacology, statistics etc., relating to oncology. Specific project related training in techniques was carried out by the fellows' supervisors assisted by post-doctoral fellows and experienced scientific and technical staff. Some fellows also visited other institutions to allow new techniques to be learnt or enhanced.

Moreover, the MITRAC fellows benefited from events organised as part of a specific programme of the 'MITRAC cohesion activities'. Quarterly MITRAC meetings from the second project period onwards were attended by all MITRAC fellows and supervisors, allowing for the integration of the programme as a whole and, most importantly, enabling the fellows to learn about imaging modalities that were not part of their own project. Other joint events included external visits to a specialist imaging centre, a programme of invited speakers that spent time exclusively with the MITRAC fellows and an imaging symposium, organised as part of the ICR annual conference. The ICR ran an extensive and wide ranging scheme of seminars, distinguished lectures, journal clubs and conferences that allowed the fellows to develop a wide range of skills such as presentation, communication and networking, to improve knowledge of cutting-edge science in their fields as well as diverse research areas, to integrate with the wider research community and gain knowledge of career paths in research.

During the MITRAC programme the fellows disseminated their research findings by attending international conferences and giving both oral and poster presentations which enabled them to network with experts in their fields in addition to publishing their results in peer reviewed journals. This led to the promotion of the Marie Curie actions through the MITRAC project. Perhaps the most pertinent aspect of the quality of this training programme was that fellows were trained in different aspects of imaging, and such high quality training would render the fellows experts in this novel concept, i.e. in the combination of modalities of molecular imaging and their applications. This area is developing very rapidly worldwide, with a shortage of trained experts. The innovative training received by the fellows would therefore strengthen European approaches to molecular imaging.

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United Kingdom