Rosemere Cancer Foundation held an open evening on Wednesday, 30th November to help celebrate their 25th anniversary, with the introduction of Surface Guided Radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy is the use of radiation to deliver a lethal dose to cancerous tumours, and SGRT is the application of a near-infrared light, projected onto the patient’s skin during radiation delivery to help ensure the patient is treated accurately and safely, by making sure they are in the correct position.
The charity has raised over £800,000 towards their £1.3m appeal target, with much support, generosity and some significant gifts in donors’ wills, and the SGRT system – the largest such install to date in the UK - will make a big difference moving forward.
Initial training for the system users has been completed, and installs are ongoing with five completed and two more scheduled, giving seven rooms, with six medical linear accelerators and a CT scanner.
The cancer centre is currently going through final connections, testing and training, and Colin Jennings, Deputy Head of Radiotherapy Physics and Consultant Clinical Scientist believes it will make a huge difference to treatments: “There are many patient and clinical benefits of SGRT, these have a direct impact on the quality of the treatment the patient receives, the experience of the patient when undergoing radiotherapy, and improve the patients’ long-term well being.
“There is the ability to offer radiotherapy without the need for permanent tattoos, improving patient safety and experience during radiotherapy treatment delivery, increasing the accuracy of radiotherapy treatment delivery, reducing additional radiation doses, and reducing short and long-term side effects for patients.”
Radiotherapy without permanent tattoos is another big advancement – tattoos have always been a ‘necessary evil’ required to setup the patient for radiation treatment, but they are a permanent, constant and visible reminder of a patients' cancer experience.
They can have a negative long-term impact on a patient’s psychosocial wellbeing and body image - a recent study showed over 70% felt negatively about their radiotherapy tattoos, and over 75% would be willing to either travel further for treatment or pay to avoid tattoos.
However, SGRT enables treatment without the need for any permanent tattoos or marks, is completely non-invasive, and proven to be more accurate for treatment setup.
Modern Radiotherapy techniques often means higher radiation doses and smaller targets - increasing the risk associated with a patient moving during treatment. But SGRT monitors the patient during the entire treatment process in real time, automatically and instantly stopping the radiation beam if the patient moves, and is accurate to sub-mm.
That helps reduces long-term effects - left-sided breast radiotherapy can dramatically increase the risk of long-term side effects due to an increased radiation dose delivered to the heart.
And in terms of comfort, H&N Radiotherapy standardly requires a closed mask for treatment delivery to ensure the patient remain in the same place, which can be uncomfortable and claustrophobic, and make it very difficult to communicate, while if a patient loses weight during treatment, the mask can become ill-fitting and no longer provide the accuracy required.
SGRT means the patient can be treated with an open-faced mask.
It is another good news story for the foundation, which started out in 1997 to support services at the new cancer centre at Royal Preston Hospital.
In its first year, Rosemere raised £67,000, and has since gone on to raise in the region of £20m to date. Last year alone, £1.5m was raised, helping the charity support multiple projects and services, ensuring local patients get the best possible cancer care.
The Rosemere Cancer Centre itself opened 25 years ago as a satellite of Christie Hospital, starting out with two large and one small treatment unit, and now has eight large and one small units – the 10th largest in England, treating 200-240 patients each day.