New SABR technology to enhance cancer treatment

Pictured from left: Steve Rushton, UHNM Charity Manager, Alex Smith, Capital Projects Estates Manager, Dr Craig Edwards, Head of Radiotherapy Physics, Carolyn O'Donovan, Radiotherapy Manager, Dave Ruscoe,  Senior Project Manager for Capital Projects and Frances Hall, Deputy Radiotherapy Manager

Cancer patients at UHNM are set to benefit from a significant development in radiotherapy technology. Two new linear accelerators are being installed this year, both capable of delivering SABR (Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy), a more intensive form of treatment which causes only minimal damage to surrounding organs. The machines, costing £1.7 million each, will enable clinicians to treat smaller tumours in areas of the body that were previously difficult to access and therefore improve chance of survival and quality of life.

Carolyn O'Donovan, Radiotherapy Service Manager, said: "The new accelerators are top-of-the-range and will help us to enhance the service we provide in so many ways. For the first time, we will be able to deliver more specialised treatment at Royal Stoke, saving patients the time and hassle of travelling to Manchester and Birmingham. For example, a patient with lung cancer who is not fit enough for surgery would now be able to receive potentially life-saving SABR, which has a similar success rate to surgery and can target multiple small tumours."

There is also potential to develop SABR so that it can be applied to different cancers in many areas of the body.

Carolyn said: "With the current linear accelerators, if a patient has a tumour that has spread to the brain we would likely have to apply radiotherapy to the whole of the brain or send them to a centre who could deliver SABR. With the new machines we will be able to do this ourselves and deliver a high dose of radiotherapy to the specific area, targeting even tiny deposits of tumour.  This could mean fewer side effects for the patient, including reduced tiredness and hair loss. Patients may also be able to retain more cognitive function, which can sometimes be impaired. Radiotherapy receives only 5% of the national cancer budget, but contributes to over 40% of cures. This investment at UHNM demonstrates our continued commitment to delivering safe, effective and efficient services to our patients. We are continuing to deliver and grow a world-class radiotherapy service and I'm very proud and excited to be a part of this team."

The exciting project to install the new accelerators will involve a range of skilled clinicians, technicians and members of the estates and facilities teams working together. 

Dr Craig Edwards, Head of Radiotherapy Physics, said: "A team of highly skilled staff have already begun the difficult task of configuring the first accelerator, which has to be set at a degree of 0.5% accuracy, so that it can be used safely and effectively on patients. Radiographers using the new accelerators will now be able to access imaging, treatment information and verification methods much more quickly and seamlessly. Over the next 10 years of their clinical life, the accelerators will enable the radiotherapy team to adapt to new innovations and techniques as they come to light, so that our patients will always have access to the latest, safest and effective cancer treatment available."

UHNM Charity will also be helping to improve the patient experience by installing 'living ceilings', panels which help to brighten the environment in treatment rooms by giving an impression of natural light.