National Physical Laboratory

Insights: Mass spectrometry imaging in cancer research

Josephine Bunch and Ian Gilmore of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) discuss the potential of mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) in cancer research in the latest edition of Insights

Insights: Mass spectrometry imaging in cancer research

Mass spectrometry is one of the most powerful techniques for chemical analysis, separating ions according to their mass-to-charge ratios to identify the molecules within a sample. When combined with an imaging capability, mass spectrometry allows molecular chemistry to be visualised in 2D and 3D, from the nano- to the macro-scale, in ambient conditions as well as in real-time.

The National Centre of Excellence in Mass Spectrometry Imaging (NiCE-MSI) at NPL is one of the world's leading centres with a focus on advancing measurement capabilities, establishing metrology for reliability and standardisation, supporting UK industry, and training the next generation of scientists and engineers.

MSI offers unique opportunities in cancer treatment for measuring disease markers, drug distribution and, importantly, the molecular changes occurring within tumours throughout treatment. These attributes highlight the excellent potential for MSI to inform treatment decisions and monitor treatment responses to help the development and delivery of therapies that are effective for particular groups of patients.

One example of NiCEMSI's work advancing the use of MSI in medical research is its contribution to the development of the innovative 3D nanoSIMS instrument, which is being launched at NPL in November 2016. This instrument has incredible potential for cancer research owing to its ability to accurately identify tissue constituents and, importantly, the presence of chemicals, such as those metabolised by a tumour, that are otherwise obscured in other state-of-the-art instruments.

Find out more in the latest edition of Insights

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Last Updated: 10 Oct 2016
Created: 5 Oct 2016


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