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Center for Medical Imaging Research Programme

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​As a UMCG platform programme, CMI offers campus-wide imaging facilities and expertise to organ- or disease-oriented researchers, develops methodologies and initiates the building and financing of large imaging facilities.  CMI is part of CMINEN, one of the eight Centers of Research Excellence (CoRE) in the Innovative Medical Devices Initiative program (IMDI.nl), acknowledged by the NWO and the ZonMw. CMINEN is a public-private initiative, founded in 2009-10 by the Universities of Groningen and Twente, UMCG, and Siemens Netherlands.

Mission  

CMI conducts research in medical imaging and uses the results to develop imaging methods and techniques that will contribute to higher quality affordable healthcare. In addition to supporting imaging projects in existing programs in the various institutes, the CMI research program is actively implementing a singular vision: that by 2020 individuals at risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular, infectious/inflammatory disorders and neuro-psychiatric (ageing brain) diseases can be identified at an early stage. Through this program, patients are more likely to be cured, with less pain, shorter hospitalizations and recovery period, and a faster return to normal (work) life.

Programme Leaders   Principal Investigators   Description of the Programme  

An ageing population and the increasing prevalence of obesity and other metabolic risk factors in younger generations have caused a rapid increase in the incidence of chronic diseases (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and dementia). Without effective, cost-effective, and non-invasive methods for early detection and treatment, healthcare costs become unaffordable. The Netherlands already spends 9-13% of its GDP on healthcare, amounting to €50 billion (OECD definition) / €75 billion (CBS definition). The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) estimates the real increase of healthcare costs to be 4.2% per year, more than twice the average rate of projected economic growth.

In contrast to therapeutic drug development, development of medical imaging devices to date has been driven by potential technical achievement instead of clinical demand. Currently, new diagnostic imaging devices are applied without restriction to multiple clinical problems based on the referring physician’s choice, without validation or comparison to existing technologies. Physicians seldom select the most clinically and cost-effective solution to specific problems. Unexpected findings further increase diagnostic and therapeutic costs, elevating the perception of new or imagined medical conditions in the general population.

The CMI research program aims to redirect this autonomous trend and its high impact on public health and costs. CMI will investigate and develop minimally to non-invasive medical imaging techniques and imaging biomarkers improve existing technologies and optimize their integrated use for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes (theranostics). Cardiovascular disease, oncology, infection and inflammation, and neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases (Ageing Brain) are the major CMI research themes. Medical imaging innovations have major impact on the individual patient and society, improving healthcare quality and containing future costs. Next-generation imaging technologies will enable early diagnosis of diseases such as cancer, infections and Alzheimer’s disease leading to efficacious early interventions. New and more effective imaging tools and methods will ultimately facilitate non-invasive diagnosis, therapy and monitoring.

Research should be centered on the most pressing and relevant clinical needs, aligning new technological development with clinical demands for early diagnosis, early intervention and minimally invasive therapies in close combination with Health Technology Assessment (HTA) studies. CMI research concentrates on existing and new imaging technologies and tracer development on the various existing and novel imaging platforms, and combinations thereof: magnetic resonance, X-rays/computed tomography, ultrasound, optics, optoacoustics and molecular imaging. Four ‘enablers’ bring a third dimension to the strategic agenda: targeted contrast agents, navigation technology/image guided therapy, medical imaging informatics, quantification / standardization / calibration, and HTA. These ensure that medical imaging maintains accuracy, controllability, efficiency and effectiveness. These are critical in research and development as well as its diagnostic and treatment applications. These platform enablers cover all imaging technology and disease areas.

In its ‘early detection strategy’, CMI focuses on techniques with high predictive power to exclude rather than demonstrate diseases. Biomarkers that can identify individuals who have a negligible risk of developing a disease over the next five or ten years allow these individuals to be excluded from further monitoring and more expensive and/or more invasive testing. CMI’s low cost, high sensitivity tests such as calcium scoring and lung cancer screening are expected to reassure patients, reduce medicalization and contain healthcare cost.

Relevance to Healthy Ageing  

The CMI research program’s specific aims are to research and develop minimally- to noninvasive medical imaging techniques, to improve existing technologies and to optimize their integrated use. This will be achieved by:

 

  1. Developing systematic pathways for the appropriate application of new and existing medical imaging technology, including new and existing biomarkers, in optimal diagnostic algorithms (sets of rules and procedures to solve diagnostic problems);
  2. Focusing on techniques with high predictive power to exclude rather than demonstrate diseases. Low cost, high sensitivity tests to exclude diseases are expected to become very important in reassuring patients, reducing medicalization and containing healthcare costs;
  3. Developing and validating non-invasive imaging biomarkers too accurately and precisely evaluate early stages and progression of (sub-) clinical disease.


Although CMI’s primary research focus is on imaging-enabled diagnosis, its programmatic impact extends into therapy. Better imaging and navigation that is more accurate lead to less extensive interventions posing a lesser burden on patients. They also produce better results, leading to fewer relapses.

Scientific and Societal output