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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T028017/1
Title: Big data for small patients - Building "child-size" individual predictive models for life after childhood cancer
Principal Investigator: Aznar, Dr MC
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Christie NHS Foundation Trust St Jude Childrens Research Hospital
Department: School of Medical Sciences
Organisation: University of Manchester, The
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 June 2021 Ends: 31 May 2026 Value (£): 1,195,833
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Medical Imaging Statistics & Appl. Probability
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
17 Nov 2020 EPSRC Physical Sciences Fellowship Interview Panel November 2020 Announced
05 May 2020 Healthcare Technologies Investigator Led Panel May 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Many children with cancer have radiation treatment as part of their care. As for all cancer treatments, there is a risk of lasting side-effects such as learning problems and reduced growth. Research is needed to reduce such side-effects, which is particularly important for children because of their long life expectancy. Radiation treatment is planned to give maximal dose to the tumour and minimal doses to nearby healthy organs. However, even with the most advanced ways of giving radiation (e.g. using the new Proton Beam Therapy machine in Manchester) it will never be possible to avoid all healthy organs.

This fellowship will find which parts of healthy organs are particularly damaged by radiation ('the important regions'). This knowledge would be incredibly useful when planning radiation treatments, because it is often possible to spare the important regions of an organ close to the tumour but not the whole organ. Hence, finding these important regions would be a step toward allowing reduced side-effects in many children with cancer.

The cancer centre with the most and the best documented children's health data in the world is St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Children treated with radiation at St Jude have a very detailed and complete follow-up, and their side effects are measured using the most up-to-date methods.

In this project, we will:

(1) Set up a joint data analysis structure to show that our new method can be used on St Jude's data; with this, we will discover, for example, regions of the brain where radiation causes the most learning problems.

(2) Measure the changes in organ size and shape between children of different ages and sizes. For this we will use images from St Jude patients as well as from 500 healthy children in the United States, aged from 6 months to 16 years that were scanned every 2 years (we have permission to use these data for research). This information will help us make our method even more precise and able to find smaller "important regions". We will also use those images to build models of growth of the organs of interest (e.g. language center, hormone glands) in children, which will be useful for researchers studying other childhood diseases.

(3) Develop new and better ways to measure side-effects, using all the follow-up information obtained about a child's health as they grow into adulthood. This will mean, for example, that we can use images showing the health of each child even though taken many years after treatment.

This will be the first project of this kind focused on understanding side effects in children with cancer. In the future, the results from this project will help doctors give 'smarter' radiation treatments, with fewer side-effects. The models of growing organs will also be useful for research in other childhood diseases.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.man.ac.uk