Research projects

Developing ultra-sensitive MRI that spots cancer sooner

Dr Leif Schröder
Project period
March 2022 - February 2025
Research Institute
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Cancer types
Breast cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Leif Schröder and his team are trying to improve ways of spotting cancer that has spread to the lungs to help patients sooner and give them better treatment options.

Hope for the future

Catching cancer early can give a patient the best chance of survival, especially when it spreads to other parts of the body. Cancer often spreads to the lungs, and an MRI scan can be used to look for tumours. However, current methods are not able to see tumours early on because they are too small to detect.

Image credit: Monique Wüstenhagen, Berlin Partner for Technologie und Wirtschaft GmbH


Meet the scientist

Dr Leif Schröder likes to take part in science outreach activities with the public and makes illustrations for those events. He also enjoys history documentaries, opera, classical music, and spending time in the south of France where he can use his photography skills and explore local wineries.

The science

Breast cancer is a type of cancer which commonly spreads to the lungs as the disease progresses. MRI is an effective imaging method to help spot tumours in the lungs, but current methods are not able to spot them at the earliest stage as MRI cannot see things below a certain size.

Dr Schröder and his team aim to combine recent knowledge from MRI physics and bioengineering to improve how specific and sensitive MRI scans are. The researchers will combine smart ‘nanoparticles’ and xenon gas, which will work together to highlight tumours in the lungs, together with another technique called hyperpolarisation that makes MRI scans more sensitive. Their previous research shows that this can result in much higher quality images, which could allow for earlier detection of cancer in the lungs. The team will use mice with breast cancer and use this new MRI scan to look for lung tumours at an early stage.

Dr Leif Schröder
True breakthroughs often come from ideas that are a little hidden and that nobody really had on their radar. The overall aim might be clear, but the path can still contain mysteries that reveal truly new concepts once they are understood.

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