Published: 22 September 2021

By Martina McAteer, NCITA Project Manager & Engagement Coordinator, Department of Oncology, University of Oxford

A major new cancer imaging infrastructure has been established in the UK to support excellence in clinical imaging research.  The National Cancer Imaging Translational Accelerator (NCITA) will play a vital role in developing cutting-edge imaging techniques for adoption by the NHS and clinical trials. Given the widespread detrimental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care, this exciting new initiative will be critically important to rapidly improve diagnosis and treatment of patients with cancer.

World-leading medical imaging centres

NCITA brings together nine world-leading medical imaging centres from across the UK to form an integrated infrastructure for standardising imaging protocols and processes that will transform healthcare outcomes for patients and ensure the long-term sustainability of clinical imaging research. The institutions that make up NCITA include University College London, University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Institute of Cancer Research London, King’s College London, Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, Newcastle University and University of Glasgow.

This unique infrastructure network provides clinical researchers with access to a specialised imaging clinical trials unit offering bespoke trial management and governance, quality assurance and control support and data repository services, including artificial intelligence tools and ongoing training opportunities.

NCITA was established in 2019 with funding from a Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Accelerator Award of up to £10 million.  NCITA builds on over 10 years of collaborations formed by the Cancer Imaging Centres Initiative (2008-2018) which was pivotal in driving innovations in imaging research.

Building academic and industrial partnerships

As NCITA develops, we aim to expand and sustain our medical imaging infrastructure support and capacity by building new academic and industry partnerships both in the UK and internationally.

We are already supporting a growing number of adopted studies requiring our infrastructure support as well a portfolio of Exemplar projects. Recently, we have partnered with clinical researchers at Stanford University and Oregan Health and Science University, USA to collaborate on the delivery of the CRUK-funded International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection (ACED) programme.

We are also collaborating with key stakeholders from NHS Trusts, industry, charities, and regulatory bodies as well as the CRUK Commercial Partnerships team to ensure that our infrastructure goals of building a pipeline for standardising clinical imaging protocols and processes are aligned to what our health services need to improve diagnosis and deliver precision treatments in areas of unmet clinical need.

While our initial focus is on cancer imaging, we are also keen to partner with organisations focused on other disease areas.  For example, our NCITA repository unit now supports a large COVID database including the National Covid-19 Chest Imaging Database (NCCID) established by NHSX, the British Society of Thoracic Imaging (BSTI), Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust and Faculty.  Through expanding our partnerships with other disease-focused organisations, we hope to reach our shared goal of accelerating the adoption of quality assured imaging techniques for areas of unmet clinical need.

Future partnerships

We are excited about the opportunities that we have already generated through our study adoption process and are now looking for new partners.  If you would like to find out more about our NCITA infrastructure support for clinical imaging research studies, or are interested in exploring partnership opportunities, please get in touch with Dr Martina McAteer, NCITA Project Manager and Engagement Coordinator at [email protected].

You can also contact NCITA through [email protected] or using our contact form on the NCITA website.

For more information on our NCITA infrastructure facilities and expertise view our NCITA Comment article published in the British Journal of Cancer on 27 July 2021.