Prof. Celso Matos - Chairman of the Imaging Department
Prof. Celso Matos is a renowned Radiologist and Clinical researcher in the field of MRI. Fortunately, he found time to talk to us about his work, background and ideas for the future.
Prof. Celso Matos is a renowned Radiologist and Clinical researcher in the field of MRI. He is Chair of the Imaging Department at the Champalimaud Clinical Centre, President of ESGAR and a member of the ESOR steering committee, amongst several other organisations and societies. Fortunately, he found time to talk to us about his work, background and ideas for the future.
Good afternoon, Professor. Could you tell us a little about how you arrived to your current position here at the CCC?
I was professor of clinical radiology in Erasme University Hospital, a huge hospital with around 900 beds, when I became aware of the work being done here at the Champalimaud Foundation. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave Belgium after over 30 years there, but it was a decision that I felt I had to make. But I didn’t jump straight in; for several years after the CCC opened, I worked here as a consultant. It was only in October of 2015 that I decided that I could commit fully to the programme here.
What brought you to that decision?
This project, the Champalimaud Foundation, has always struck me as unique and ambitious. It is a platform to build upon, a blank canvas. And it is flexible, which is probably its greatest feature. What do I mean by this? Well, I am a firm believer that, in the future, we will not have specific imaging units as part of other services. The imaging will be integrated and available to all the doctors and scientists, so that imaging data can be used for research, diagnosis and to guide treatment. This is much more difficult in a big hospital, but I believe that a smaller facility, with state of the art technology and excellent professionals can move more quickly, adapt better and be more flexible than a bigger one. We have the balance pretty much correct here, but it is not always easy to maintain.
You’re talking about translational medicine, creating a multidisciplinary collaboration?
Exactly. And that is what I have been working on since I “officially” arrived in October. The connection between the clinicians and the researchers is incredibly important.
In imaging, so much has changed over the last 30, 40 years that it is almost unrecognisable. When I first started in Radiology, imaging was simply capturing a shape, a figure: is it rounded, big or small, thick or thin. But now we can examine images on a cellular level. We can see what the eye cannot, using digital computational techniques to reveal things that would have seemed impossible not so long ago. And for this, we need scientists, mathematicians, physicists and computer technicians to help us. Human resources are the most important aspect of a medical facility – but they are also the most expensive, in the long term; so you have to make sure you surround yourself with the very best professionals.
Could you give us an example of when research and the clinic have crossed over?
I could give you many!
In the pre-clinical MR [Magnetic Resonance] imaging lab led by Noam Shemesh, radiologists and MR scientists are already working together using specific imaging methods to discriminate for ex. malignant and benign lymph nodes (an important issue that may alter the outcome of cancer patients) without being invasive. The encouraging pre-clinical results have already allowed for the implementation of the methodology into our clinical MR scanners and we are moving forward with clinical research of oncology patients.
A project has also just been launched with Bruno Costa da Silva, who recently joined us. He’s the scientist that reported that there are vehicles named exosomes in pancreatic cancer patients that travel from the pancreas, and settle in the liver to create an appropriate environment for the development of metastasis. But what use is this information, if imaging methods cannot help us find where in the liver these cells will appear? With modern imaging, we may be able to identify the “pre-metastatic niches,” that is, the areas of the liver that the pancreatic exosomes would be attracted to. And Bruno did this through research on animal models. We will be able to apply this information and technique to help identify different subtypes of pancreatic cancer patients at an early stage allowing to apply more precise treatments. Truly translational medicine at work.
What are the next steps for imaging?
Over the last few years, speed has been the key goal. When I started, a CT scan of the brain could take 30 minutes, now we can do a whole body imaging scan in 3 seconds. This is extremely important, as the patient has to remain perfectly still for the MRI – which is a lot easier to do for 3 seconds than for 30 minutes! Now, the movement is towards using digital technology to see more detail. And, as I said earlier, to integrate imaging into every area of medicine, quantifying more data, adding more sources and combining modalities that were once disparate. I think the possibilities for imaging are boundless, to be honest. I can’t conceive of a time when we decide that we cannot possibly make improvements, find more information, and do it better, more accurately, and faster – all for the benefit of the patient.