Co-ordination: Professor Isabelle Fournier – INSERM U1192, University of Lille 1

The integrated Imaging Platform for use by ONCOLille researchers is one of the most innovative ones in Europe. It consists of 4 technology platforms: cell imaging (the BiCeL platform), molecular imaging using mass spectrometry, in vivo imaging, and radiotherapy.

These platforms, which offer easy access, are located on the University Hospital campus (CHRU (Regional University Hospital Centre) – University of Lille 2), on the Villeneuve d’Ascq Sciences University campus, and at the site of the Pasteur Institute in Lille.


Cell Imaging platform


Scientific Director of the BiCeL platform :
Professor Frank Lafont, Lille Biology Institute, a world specialist in the mechanical characterisation of cell membranes.

A sophisticated cell imaging technology:

Since 2010, the BioImaging Center Lille-Nord de France (BICeL) has combined the tissue and cell imaging platforms of the University Hospital campus (CHRU-Lille 2), the Lille 1 University of Sciences and Technologies (Lille 1 campus), and of the Pasteur Institute and the Institute of Biology in Lille (Pasteur campus).

Adopting transversal functionality, BiCell brings together the technical platforms for atomic force microscopy, photon microscopy (conventional and fluorescence microscopes, very high-resolution microscopes, multiple-photon microscopes, confocal microscopes, and laser micro-dissection), electronic microscopy (transmission electron microscopes (TEM), cryo-tomo-analytical TEM or scanning microscopy), flow cytometry and high-throughput screening.

These sophisticated pieces of equipment enable every little detail of the functioning of cells to be studied and understood (organelles and molecular traffic, deformation of membranes and cells, interaction between ligands and receptors, etc.), and classification of the cell types of a larger population of cells (the development of a population of tumour cells during a treatment or a relapse, etc.)

Key figures:

  • Over 70 hi-tech imaging equipment items,
  • Over 30 expert scientists serving researchers,
  • 300 researchers and clinicians from 112 research teams, including ONCOLille’s, have access to the platform,
  • 25% of the activity is dedicated to cancer research.

The excellence of this platform is recognised by national excellence quality labels:

  • The IBISA (Biology, Health & Agronomy Infrastructures) label since 2010, bearing testimony to the organisational and service quality of the platform which serves the life sciences.
  • The Equipex (Equipment Excellence) label, and more specifically the PIA-Equipex relating to Equipex Investment Programme of the Future, obtained in 2011 for excellent equipment within the context of the ImagInExBioMed project.
  • Support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) deployed via the Nord-Pas de Calais Regional Council.

For sharing knowledge:

In addition to research support, the BiCeL platform is also involved in training students and researchers in sophisticated cell imaging techniques (organising an international summer school, taking part in the A. Verbert day events for doctoral students, the 2014 international LEAD Imaging @ Lille symposium etc.)



imaging using Mass Spectrometry (MS) platform: CliC-Imaging


Scientific manager: Professor Isabelle Fournier, PRISM Laboratory, Lille University, who is an international specialist in molecular analysis using mass spectrometry

Based on new molecular imaging technologies using mass spectrometry developed by Prof. I. Fournier’s team in 2001, the MS imaging platform was a pioneering one at international level. It works in the following fields:

  • Searching for target molecules (or markers) in fine tissue sections (for example, exogenic compounds such as medicines, pollutants or biomarkers like metabolites, lipids, peptides, proteins, miRNA, and exosomes),
  • Establishing molecular classifications for tumours by highlighting specific molecular profiles (or footprints) in order to refine diagnostics,
  • Prognosis and identification of biomarkers for understanding the mechanisms involved in the appearance and development of tumours.
  • Development of new real-time and in vivo diagnostic technologies based on mass spectrometry (SpiderMassTM)
  • Targeted and quantitative multiplex molecular imaging at cell level using the Tag-Mass TM


The MS Imaging platform offers all the research teams assigned to ONCOLille a molecular imaging service using mass spectrometry and the identification of endogenic or exogenic compounds using micro-OMICs strategies.

How does it work?

Molecular imaging using mass spectrometry is a medical advance that is experiencing major growth: it considerably refines diagnostics. Among other things, it ensures both detection of a cancerous lesion within the context of an anatomical pathology examination and assessment of its level of malignancy.

A laser beam is aimed at a biopsy sample and disperses part of the molecules comprising it: the biomarkers (which are the indicators of a disease or of its progression). These biomarkers are immediately recovered by the spectrometer and are analysed automatically depending on their molecular weight, which gives rise to a more accurate diagnosis. This technology is applied ex vivo using biopsy samples (for example), or in vivo via the SpiderMassTM technology.

Main equipment items:

  • High-performance FT MS mass spectrometry equipment for identifying protein partners highlighted by MS imaging. It increases the platform’s performance, as well as offering use of the MS imaging as a tool for monitoring particular targets or as a molecular histology tool, providing access to identifying proteins, and access to information concerning the physiopathological processes involved,
  • Instruments for preparing tissues with a view to tissue micro-analysis or imaging experiments (cryostat, robots for applying reagents such as micro-sprayers and micro-spotters),
  • Instrument for carrying out molecular micro-extractions,
  • 3 MALDI mass spectrometers as well as 3 ESI-IT mass spectrometers, etc.
  • New tools for in-situ real-time diagnostics:

The platform supports a development project for a real-time diagnostics instrument based on mass spectrometry (the SpiderMass project), the ultimate purpose of which is to provide a diagnostics instrument that can be used in an operating theatre. The surgeon will be able to carry out real-time detection so that quicker, more precise surgical procedures can be performed. For example, determining excision margins.

This project was a finalist for the ALTRAN international innovation prize (2014) and won the innovation prize awarded by the international jury of MATWIN (an organisation devoted to innovation maturation) in May 2015.

Key figures:

– 70% of the platform’s overall activity is devoted to cancer themes.

For sharing knowledge:

The MS Imaging platform regularly organises (2014, 2015) international training courses regarding MS imaging intended for professionals, has organised several scientific symposiums, and is a stakeholder in training courses concerning MS imaging technology for students at Lille University as part of the Master’s degree in Proteomics.


In vivo


Imaging platform

Manager: Professor Damien Huglo, Lille CHRU, who specialises in nuclear medicine

Equipment for clinical imaging (for humans) and pre-clinical imaging (for animals)

For its clinical part, the in vivo imaging platform brings together the departments of the Lille CHRU and the COL (Oscar Lambret Centre) available for cancerology clinical research, namely 9 radiology departments (8 at the CHRU and 1 at the COL) and 3 nuclear medicine departments (2 at the CHU (University Hospital Centre) and 1 at the COL), bringing together 8 scanners and a Computed Tomography (CT) scanner, 8 Magnetic Resonance Imagers (MRIs, including one totally dedicated to research at the Roger Salengro Hospital), 8 gamma cameras, including 3 linked to CT scanners and 3 PET (Positron Emission Tomograph)-CT units.

The portion reserved for cancerology research varies greatly from one department to the next and their links with clinicians at these services are first and foremost intended for examining patients as part of routine care. With nearly all of it being located at the Cancer Centre site, this cancerology research part constitutes 60 %; entailing more or less 400 research protocols in which the CHRU’s imaging services are involved.


The part of in vivo imaging dedicated to pre-clinical research is established at the Faculty of Medicine’s research centre. It mainly consists of 2 equipment items enabling very sophisticated imaging of small animals (rodents): a μPET-μCT unit, and a μMRI unit. Cancer themes account for 20 to 25 % of the activity of the pre-clinical platform.


The research unit

A research unit belonging to the Lille CHRU Imaging and Functional Explorations Centre assesses and selects new requests for participating in cancerology clinical protocols. The establishment of a database for all of the research protocols in which SIRIC projects are identified is reinforcing this dynamic.


Key figures

From January 2014 to June 2015, 58 % of the new protocols of the Lille CHRU in which imaging services were involved related to cancerology:

64 of the 92 new protocols validated in 2014 and 39 of the 87 new protocols validated during the 1st six months of 2015


For sharing knowledge:

– Publication of the activity of the Imaging and Functional Explorations Centre in the Contact review published by the Lille CHRU,

– Participation in the steering committee for orientation 2 of the North-West Cancer Centre concerning image-guided radiotherapy and adaptive radiotherapy,

– Participation in the Science Festival.


Radiotherapy and medical imaging platform

Manager: Professor Eric Lartigau, an Oncologist and Radiotherapist who is also the Research Director at the Oscar Lambret Centre


All the modern techniques used in radiotherapy are available for the fundamental (stem cells), clinical or translational research carried out at ONCOLille. A major part of the work done by the research support programmes is in the medical physics and technology sector with the medical physics team: development of Monte Carlo algorithms for the quality control of radiotherapy doses, optimisation of patients workflow, integration of new imaging techniques and particularly MRI into diagnostics, and the therapeutic care and treatment of cancers.

As a further sign of its orientation towards innovation, the platform develops industrial collaborative efforts in the field of new technologies such as proton therapy etc.


The equipment items:

They belong to the Radiotherapy University Department of the Oscar Lambret Centre and to the Salengro Hospital (CHRU) Gamma Knife advanced platform.

– 7 external radiotherapy machines,

– All the surface radiotherapy and curietherapy equipment items etc.


For sharing knowledge:

– Co-ordination of research programmes with Orientation 2 of the North-West Cancer Centre concerning image-guided radiotherapy and adaptive radiotherapy.

– Organisation of the 1st Master Class in Mass Spectrometry Imaging and Tissue Microproteomics, held from 14-18 October 2014.

– National course in medical physics, Lille, March 2015.

– Conference of the French Society of Medical Physics, Lille, June 2015.

– Radiotherapy day events organised in January 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Lille.