Every year, over 2.5 million people in the EU alone are diagnosed with cancer, and cases are rising. The good news is that advances in treatments mean that survival rates are improving dramatically. Nevertheless, cancer remains a leading cause of death. Furthermore, while many current treatments are effective at killing off cancer cells, they also cause a lot of harm to healthy cells, tissues and organs, resulting in a range of serious side effects for patients.
The IMAGIO project focuses on an approach called interventional oncology (IO) which targets cancer cells more precisely, thereby sparing healthy cells from the toxic effects of many treatments.
In IO, miniaturised instruments (including biopsy needles, electrodes or catheters) are inserted into the patient’s body via minimally invasive access routes. The miniaturised instruments are guided to the tumour with the help of imaging techniques such as x-rays, ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Once there, the treatment can be applied directly and precisely to the tumour.
IO can be used to deliver diverse types of cancer treatments, including surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. The IO approach offers multiple benefits for patients. In the case of IO surgery, damage to, and scarring of, healthy tissues is dramatically reduced and there is a much lower risk of infection and bleeding. For IO radiotherapy, because the treatment is applied directly to the tumour, radiation damage to surrounding healthy tissues is much reduced. This means a higher radiation dose can be used, resulting in a faster response to treatment. Similarly, for chemotherapy, the precise delivery of the treatment means that higher doses can be used because healthy tissues will not be exposed to the treatment. Finally, IO immunotherapy results in a strong immune response in both the primary tumour and any metastases.
IO approaches allow patients to recover faster while also cutting the cost of treatment.
IMAGIO will focus on three cancers: lung and liver cancer and soft tissue sarcomas. Lung and liver cancers are among the leading causes of cancer death. Soft tissue sarcomas are rare in older adults but are a major cause of death among young people aged 14 to 29.
The project brings together representatives of the medical technology and pharmaceutical sectors as well as leading academic and clinical sectors and patient representatives. Together, they will explore and demonstrate how next generation IO imaging techniques can be applied to cancer research and treatment, from laboratory studies to clinical trials.
“The IMAGIO consortium brings together many technical and clinical partners, strengthened with patient and care professional perspectives, to advance interventional oncology care pathways,” said IMAGIO project coordinator Robert Hofsink of Philips. “The kickoff meeting showed a massive potential for synergies across the different innovation areas. We are all determined to make a difference in cancer treatment, and I look forward to this collaboration!”