Sheffield Scanner FAQ 

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We know that with a major campaign like this, and with a new and complex piece of technology, you might have some questions. That's why we've prepared some answers to common questions. If you still haven't been able to find what you need please get in touch via

The scanner and technology

What is MRI-PET?

MRI-PET is a new type of medical scanner which combines an MRI scan and a PET scan into a single image.

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) uses magnetic and radio waves to create pictures of tissues, organs and other structures within the body, which can then be viewed on a computer.

The scanner uses radiowaves (which are lower energy and less harmful than other forms of energy such as x-rays) to create a magnetic field which affects the protons within the body. When the magnetic field is switched off the protons revert to their original state, and in doing so emit their own radiowaves. By measuring these emitted radiowaves, and the differences between them (emissions from protons in different body tissues give out different signals), the scanner is able to build up a picture of the internal structure of the body.

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) uses a radioactive tracer chemical which is injected into the bloodstream before the scan. The tracer travels around the body and is absorbed by organs and tissues. The scanner then measures the gamma rays which are emitted by the tracer to build up a picture of the metabolic activity within parts of the body. Differences between the level of metabolic activity indicate how well a part of the body is or isn’t functioning.

The MRI-PET scanner is able to capture both of these images at the same time, in a single scan, and gives a more detailed picture of what is happening within the body.

Why is MRI-PET better than existing technology?

MRI-PET captures the most detailed pictures of the inside of the body currently available. By capturing anatomy and metabolic activity together at the same time, it enables us to see what is happening inside a diseased organ with unprecedented detail and whether it is responding to treatment.

In the hospital, the new scanner will provide doctors with a more precise and accurate assessment of serious conditions leading to better treatments and monitoring of patients. Furthermore, radiation exposure is reduced in adults by 50 percent of that of the next best technology which is especially important for patients requiring multiple scans.

MRI-PET also delivers quality of life benefits by cutting down on the number of scans a patient needs to receive, reducing the amount of time and potentially travel required to continue their treatment.

When was the technology developed?

The first two clinical whole body MRI-PET systems were installed by Philips at Mount Sinai Medical Centre in the United States and at Geneva University Hospital in Europe in 2010. It is new state-of-the-art technology.

Scanners that are able to acquire MRI and PET images simultaneously with no quality loss in either modality have only been available since 2011.

The first human positron imaging device was developed in 1951 and the first ever MRI scan of a live human being was in 1977, and is still an essential part of modern day medicine.

How many patients will be seen per year in the MRI-PET scanner?

The scanner will involve patients in clinical trials and direct hospital use. In setting this facility up the ambition is to have it utilised 100% of the time. It is difficult to predict exact numbers of individual patients scanned because it will depend on the nature and extent of individual research projects and the pace at which the Hospital builds up its expertise in MRI-PET imaging.

Where will the scanner be?

The scanner will be housed in a new facility connected to the Hallamshire Hospital.

Who will run the scanner?

The scanner will be used 50% for research and 50% for clinical use. It can also be used as a standalone MRI and PET scanner.

How many machines are there internationally?

We believe that there are approximately 80 hybrid MRI-PET systems worldwide, largely in clinical/research institutions. By comparison, there are approximately 36,000 MRI machines.

Where are the other MRI-PET scanners in the UK?
  • Cambridge, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Manchester and Newcastle – funded by the MRC Dementias Platform in 2015 and instalments currently taking place. These scanners are used solely for dementia research/treatment
  • University College London (UCL) – installed in the Cancer Centre at UCLH (University College London Hospital) in 2011. The first in the UK.
  • King’s College London - in the PET Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. The second in the UK.
There are 7 in the UK, isn’t that enough, why does Sheffield need one?

MRI-PET is ground-breaking technology and in order to accelerate progress in the fight against disease we need leading institutions in the UK and across the world to invest in these techniques.

Breakthroughs will come through coordinated efforts in research, and we can maximise the potential of clinical trials by undertaking large population studies across multiple centres and verifying findings in an integrated way.

We need this facility in Sheffield to exploit our existing strengths and expertise in imaging and translational research in areas such as neuroscience, cancer etc. We are training the next generation of researchers and it is vital for them to be familiar with the most cutting edge technology in order for them to be able to exploit their expertise.

With regards to clinical treatment, the nearest scanner will be in Manchester which is too far for critically ill patients to travel.

How good is medical research at Sheffield?

Health research at Sheffield is excellent. Biomedical Research at Sheffield is ranked number one for world-leading quality in the UK. We are in the top 5 in the UK for research impact in Biomedical Science, Health and Related Research and areas of Human Communication Sciences. We rank in the top 10 in the UK Russell Group of leading universities for clinical medicine.

Pioneering medical research currently being developed:

  • A novel gene therapy for the treatment of one form of MND which is caused by a SOD1 gene mutation. Proven to be successful in the laboratory - researchers at SITraN will now start a large preclinical study before the first-in-human clinical trial. The team are also currently preparing for the first ever UK gene therapy trial in humans for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) which is a childhood form of MND.
  • Innovative treatment using bone marrow stem cell transplantation to halt disease progression in patients with severe multiple sclerosis as featured on the BBC's Panorama programme.
  • Establishing new promising drug targets and promising compounds for neuroprotective therapy to slow down or stop Parkinson’s disease.
  • Research is paving the way for new treatments which could benefit patients suffering from the fatal lung disease pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). For the first time scientists have identified a molecule that promotes the progression of the disease which affects 6,500 people in the UK.
  • New ‘Trojan Horse’ therapy for prostate cancer developed in Sheffield. This uses a patient's own white blood cells as 'Trojan horses' to deliver large amounts of a cancer-busting virus into the centre of all tumours present in the body. It eliminates prostate cancer in lab experiments as reported by the BBC. This is now due to be tested in a new clinical trial in Sheffield and will be funded and run by Cancer Research-UK’s Centre for Drug Development.
  • Leading a new £2.7 million programme which will help people with type 1 diabetes to better manage their condition in line with their lifestyle. It will see the introduction of a number of programmes, models and improvements. By combining knowledge of how to change people’s behaviours and a structured model of support with new technology (such as smartphones and apps), adult sufferers will be supported and motivated to manage their own conditions as part of their everyday lives.
  • Ovarian cancer patients throughout Europe and the United States could soon be treated with a new drug discovered through pioneering research at the University of Sheffield. Lynparza has become the first of a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors to be granted approval by the European Commission and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 2005, researchers at the University of Sheffield demonstrated how PARP inhibitors could be used as a tailored treatment for patients with BRCA2 mutations, which are seen in both hereditary ovarian and breast cancer. The discovery was patent protected and licensed to pharmaceutical company Astra-Zeneca who continued the development process and undertook successful clinical trials. The fundamental science idea and innovation came from Sheffield and has been taken forward to become a world first in this type of therapy, offering hope for patients worldwide. It shows what funding novel laboratory ideas at the grass roots level can do to change the treatment options available to patients.

MRI-PET will provide truly state-of-the-art facilities for our health research and will help us to accelerate our research and its impact on patients.

How will this benefit patients now?

The MRI-PET facility will transform patient care by increasing our understanding of the causes, effects and development of disease. With this knowledge we will be able take exciting discoveries from the laboratory into hospital trials to develop new therapies and better outcomes for patients. Breakthroughs in our research will lead to easier and faster diagnosis, characterisation, staging and treatment of disease.

In the hospital, the new scanner will provide doctors with a more precise and accurate assessment of serious conditions leading to better treatments and monitoring of patients. Furthermore, radiation exposure is reduced in adults by 50 percent of that of the next best technology.

How will this have impact beyond Sheffield?

The research that we undertake will provide knowledge and impact for individuals and families in Sheffield, across the UK and beyond. In working with this new technology our discoveries will be shared and built upon by other institutions all around the world.

Can you get me/my family member onto a clinical trial/access to an MRI-PET scan?

Clinical Trials are strictly regulated and only eligible participants can be recruited depending on the nature of the trial and each individual’s circumstances.

You can ask your doctor if they know of any clinical trials that you may be eligible to join. The UK Clinical Trials Gateway (UKCTG) website pulls through information about clinical trials and other research from several different UK registers. If you sign up to it, researchers can contact you about research that might be suitable for you.

Consultants in the hospital will decide on the best treatment and care for their patients based on each individual’s circumstances and the nature of their condition. Any questions regarding an individual’s health concerns should be discussed with their doctor.

The campaign

How can I get involved?

Staff, students, alumni and friends can all support in the same way by making an individual donation, organising their own fundraising activity and opening their networks.

Staff, students and alumni can also take part in this year’s Big Walk, the Annual Quiz in Sheffield, and other events which will all be raising funds to support the campaign.

See Get Involved for more information

What size donations are you asking for?

Every single donation will make a difference. During our foundation in 1904 local workers each gave 1 penny and with enough people giving this enabled the university to be founded, a total gift worth £17m in today’s money. The collective power of individuals giving at this level will be critical to the success of this campaign.

How can I donate?

Donations can be made online through our Online Donation page.

Donations can also be made by cheque, made payable to the University of Sheffield and sent to:

Sheffield Scanner Campaign - DARE
40 Victoria Street
S10 2TN

To make a donation in person please contact 0114 222 1071 to arrange a chance to come visit us.

What is the overall cost?

It will cost £10 million to bring the MRI-PET scanner to Sheffield. This includes purchase and installation of the equipment (MRI-PET scanner and cyclotron), building work to house the equipment and revenue costs for the associated labs and staff.

The University and the Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health have committed to allocating funds to the project. The Faculty are contributing £6 million. The University will launch a £2 million 12-month fundraising campaign, with all gifts matched by the university so that £2 million in donations creates £4 million for the project.

What if you raise more than £2 million?

That would be fantastic! We guarantee that every gift for this project will be allocated specifically towards it, and donors will be recognised appropriately for their generosity.

Donors’ support will be allocated to the capital costs as well as funding running costs, particularly during the early phases of establishing a facility prior to any other revenue funding streams being established. Any additional funds will further support this to boost how fast the research gets underway.

Who will pay for the running costs and maintenance?

The University and the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust are agreeing joint responsibilities for the ongoing management of the facility. Income will be generated through research grants and NHS commissioning.

Where is the rest of the money coming from?

Fundraising is underway and we are around ninety percent of the way towards our target, thanks to generous donors helping us progress towards our target.

We have also approaching charitable trusts and foundations and potential corporate supporters where we have existing relationships.

Donations of all sizes will go directly towards the campaign and will help us to reach the £2 million goal. The entire University is committed to this project. It is a campaign for everyone.

Contact us
+44 (0) 114 222 1071

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