Herholz Research

Imaging the neuroinflammation in gliomas

Principal investigator: Prof Karl Herholz

Gliomas are the most common type of brain tumours. For glioma patients, treatment and outcome are variable, depending markedly on the tumour type and grade. There is currently no single brain imaging method that can fully characterise a glioma. Combining the advanced techniques in positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could provide more information about the nature of the tumour.

Recent research has shown inflammation in and around brain tumours. PET scans have also been used to investigate these inflammatory changes in glioma patients. However, such PET studies are sparse with inconsistent results, and the mechanisms underlying the interaction between glioma and neuroinflammation remain largely unclear.

We are currently using PET scanning, together with advanced MRI techniques, to investigate the neuroinflammatory response and tumour invasion in glioma patients (targeting the two most common types and of World Health Organization grade II to III), and evaluate the clinical application of such imaging modalities in guiding biopsy (tissue sampling for diagnosis) and planning therapy. Additionally, we will assess the tumour samples microscopically for diagnosis of the exact type and grade, as well as determination of neuroinflammation and the changes responsible for abnormal PET signals. Finally, we will try to find correlations between the imaging and microscopic findings, thus helping to further reveal the exact role of neuroinflammation in gliomas.

Our preliminary results indicate different patterns of PET signals between the two types of glioma, suggesting distinct neuroinflammatory responses in them and the potential of such imaging modalities in early differential diagnosis and guiding biopsy to target the aggressive regions of the tumours.

Date: April 2010

Grant awarded: £1,500 of top-up funding