Technology developed at the University of Sussex will enable earlier and more accurate treatment decisions and survival assessments for hospital patients with bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer kills more than 16,000 people a year in the UK, making it the nation’s second deadliest cancer after lung cancer.

TexRAD, software that analyses the texture of tumours from standard MRI and CT scans, has been shown in trials to enable early diagnosis for bowel-cancer patients not responding to the standard cancer therapy far better than other available tumour markers.

The TexRAD markers showed the ability to assess at an early stage the likelihood of survival, distinguishing patients who will have a good prognosis from those having poor prognosis.

TexRAD is noninvasive and cost effective, as hospitals do not have to invest in new equipment.

Dr. Balaji Ganeshan, one of the Sussex academics whose research led to the development of the technology, said: “By using TexRAD to scan for subtle anomalies in a tumour’s texture, researchers have been able to spot more quickly when treatments are – or are not – working and adjust treatment accordingly.”

The project began as a collaboration between researchers from the  University of Sussex and the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS).

The software has also been used for other cancers including lung, kidney, prostate, breast and oesophageal cancers.

Across two separate UK studies, researchers analysed the tumours of 155 bowel-cancer patients.

A study at University College London Hospitals, analysed baseline PET-CT scans taken before treatment and followed patients for an average of three years.

Researchers found that analysing the texture of the tumours in the initial scans enabled them to accurately predict patient survival.

Researchers at Colchester General Hospital looked at scans taken both before treatment and six weeks after the patients had completed chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and found that the patients whose tumours were more uniform in terms of texture parameters six weeks after treatment were more likely to survive longer.

Researchers from the University of Rome found that texture analysis provides useful ‘imaging biomarkers’, indicating how the tumour is responding to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The findings of the three studies will be presented at the 100th premier annual scientific meeting and exhibition of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), which takes place in Chicago from 30 November until 5 December and the technology is being evaluated in a number of research institutions and university hospitals around the world.

Kate Wilkinson and Connor Cochrane

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