ESTRO 2011: Latest radiotherapy treatments for UK hospitals

Written by Victoria Louise Crump-Haill – Digital Strategist/Account Director‏

From today (Monday 9 May), access to cutting edge radiotherapy treatments is increasing for patients in England, thanks to the opening of three new radiotherapy centres. The announcement was made at the 30th anniversary congress of the European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ESTRO).

The latest equipment and technology will be employed at the centres to provide highly sophisticated radiotherapy treatment which can precisely target a range of tumours, while sparing healthy tissue to significantly reduce side-effects for patients.

Peterborough City Hospital’s state-of-the-art radiotherapy unit is patients on their treatment pathway today. The unit will be offering two hi-tech forms of radiotherapy – Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) – as standard for patients who may benefit from the techniques. IMRT and IGRT can treat a range of cancer types and men with prostate cancer will be one of the groups who will be particularly suitable for these advanced treatments.

Jane Head, Peterborough City Hospital’s Head of Radiotherapy, said: “The opening of the radiotherapy unit is very exciting. As well as giving patients access to the most modern and effective radiotherapy techniques from day one, it will also be much more convenient for many people in the area. Before, patients had to make a long journey to Cambridge for treatment, which can be quite stressful and tiring, as treatment is usually needed every day for many weeks.”

The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has completed a new satellite radiotherapy centre in Bracknell. Radiotherapy staff are starting work in the new centre today to prepare for the first patients who will be treated later this month.

Dr Jane Barrett, the President of the Royal College of Radiologists, chair of the ESTRO National Organising Committee and a consultant at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, said: “Radiotherapy plays a vital part in treating a wide range of cancers and helps to cure around 40 per cent of patients. Techniques such as IMRT and IGRT can help to improve outcomes even further due to the highly accurate way treatment is delivered, with the added benefit of improving quality of life for patients thanks to fewer side effects.”

The Christie in Manchester is expanding its network of radiotherapy centres with the opening of a unit Salford this July. This follows the opening of a radiotherapy centre in Oldham in March last year. The new unit will have two linear accelerators (linacs) which can both deliver IMRT and IGRT. It will also be equipped to deliver stereotactic radiosurgery, a highly specialised neurosurgical technique for brain conditions – making it one of only a handful of such centres in the UK. Currently patients from Greater Manchester have to travel to Sheffield for this treatment.

Carl Rowbottom, Head of Radiotherapy Physics at the Christie, said: “Modern radiotherapy is incredibly sophisticated and can deliver very effective treatment for even the most complex tumour types, in terms of ensuring we target the tumour while avoiding healthy tissue.”

Professor Tim Maughan, Cancer Research UK’s Professor of Clinical Oncology at the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology, welcomed the new services: “For a number of years, radiotherapy was the Cinderella service among cancer treatments. The focus was all around cancer drugs, despite the fact radiotherapy cures more people. It’s great news that investment in this effective form of treatment is regaining momentum. These new centres will bring enormous benefits to people with cancer across England.”

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