Multi-user, multi-centre MRI to reduce and refine the use of mice in cancer and trauma research


This award has provided funding for a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to non-invasively monitor tumours in mouse models of cancer, reducing the number of animals used by up to 50%.


Non-invasive imaging techniques, such as MRI, provide detailed scientific information which can be used, for example, to assess tumour size and the impact of potential therapeutics. It also allows researchers to undertake longitudinal imaging studies in mice. This reduces the number of animals used by avoiding culling cohorts of animals for histological analysis at various time points, and by allowing animals to act as their own controls. Imaging can also offer refinement benefits such as the introduction of earlier humane endpoints.

Research details and methods

Funding has been provided for a MRI scanner. This will be used by scientists at Queen Mary University of London and their collaborators to reduce and refine the use of mice primarily in cancer research but also for studies on brain injury and neurotrauma.

We aim to use a low field (1T) small animal MRI instrument to improve our current studies in spontaneous orthotopic mouse models of cancer as well as in models of neuro-trauma and trauma. In cancer we have multiple programmes, many in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry, exploring new therapies for a treating cancer, most notably pancreas and breast. In fact, in addition to longstanding collaborations with AstraZeneca/Medimmune, GSK and smaller biotech companies, AZ-Medimmune have identified BCI as the site where they will direct their pre-clinical testing. All of these studies ultimately require the use of genetically modified (transgenic) models where mice naturally develop cancers deep within the body of the animal, reflecting the process in humans. However tumour burden is very difficult to assess if the tumours are not palpable. The soft tissue contrast afforded by MRI will allow us to size match groups and carry out longitudinal imaging to assess response to treatment. By accurate staging of deep tissue disease with MRI, reduced numbers of animals would be required for studies and they could be entered into studies more accurately; we suggest up to 50% reduction in animal usage. This will allow us to use fewer animals and end studies sooner, thus reducing suffering. Co-registration of MRI with radiotracers using our PET and SPECT machines would improve the value of these studies. Our mouse models of neuro-trauma and trauma would greatly benefit from MRI monitoring of brain and spinal cord injury as well as organ dysfunction after trauma in longitudinal studies. Our collaboration with Bruker/Aspect and InviCRO will allow us to set up a 3D-BLI method which uses a reconstruction algorithm to greatly improve quantitative data arising from 2D BLI as well as provide co-registered anatomical 3-D visualisation of tumour burden. This would allow tumour size-matching of mice, improving outcomes and reducing group size.

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Infrastructure grant



Principal investigator

Dr John Marshall


Queen Mary University of London


Dr Jane Sosabowski
Professor Adina Michael-Titus
Dr Julie Foster

Grant reference number


Award date

Nov 2013 - Nov 2017

Grant amount