Rectal cancer is the most common form of bowel cancer and occurs in the rectum, just above the anus. Current methods of identifying and staging rectal cancer uses MRI or CT scanning. Both processes can be limited in identifying if cancer is in the lymph nodes and blood vessels which is important in helping the doctor to decide on the extent of surgery that the patient requires.

The team will investigate the potential for Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound (CEUS) to provide a better aid to diagnosis and surgical treatment decisions for bowel cancer patients. CEUS has been shown to accurately identify lymph nodes in breast cancer but has not yet been used in rectal cancer.

The team aims to utilise CEUS on rectal cancer patients both before and after chemo and radiotherapy. At the same time they will work to identify contrast agents which will be specific to rectal cancer.

The researcher team

The research will be led by Ms Susan Moug, Consultant Surgeon at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, together with Dr Helen Mulvana, School of Engineering at Glasgow University and Dr Carmel Moran, Department of Medical Imaging at Edinburgh University.

Why develop Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound for rectal cancer staging?

Cancer is diagnosed in the rectum (back passage) in about one third of all bowel cancer cases. Improved scanning techniques would help guide major treatment decisions, including the necessity for, or the extent of, pelvic surgery and therefore impact on a patient’s recovery and quality of life after surgery.

If the extent of the cancer can be reliably predicted, in some cases surgery may be avoided altogether and the need for permanent stomas greatly reduced.