The Northern Centre for Cancer Care (NCCC) has become the first radiotherapy centre in the UK to offer cutting-edge radiosurgery technology to treat patients with brain cancer.
The centre at the Freeman Hospital is now using a new treatment planning software system – known as ‘Brainlab Elements’ – which rapidly generates radiosurgery plans for the efficient treatment of multiple brain metastases (cancer cells that have spread to the brain from primary tumours in other organs in the body).
This advanced technique allows for the treatment of multiple tumours at a time with a delivery of large doses of precisely focused radiation whereas before each individual metastasis had to be planned and treated separately.
The NCCC is one of only 17 centres in the UK with the expertise and capability to deliver Stereotactic Radiosurgery – a highly specialised and precise radiotherapy – to patients with certain types of malignant and benign brain tumours across the Northern Region.
Head of Radiotherapy Physics Chris Walker said: “We’re really pleased to be the first in the country to bring this very latest in stereotactic radiosurgery technology from Germany – it’s another example of how we’re embracing technology and working hard to achieve better services and outcomes for our patients.
“This is a step-change in our ability to treat multiple metastases in the brain in a way that is non-invasive and delivers high precision treatments in a significantly shorter time. The biggest benefit will be seen by patients who will spend less time on the treatment bed.”
Using specially configured linear accelerators, Stereotactic radiosurgery is a very precise, intense form of radiotherapy (radiation therapy).
Despite the use of the word ‘surgery’ in its name, it does not involve removing the tumour with a surgical blade. Instead, a focused high-intensity beam of radiation is used to target the tumour, which can help to preserve healthy tissue; more effectively treat the target tumour and reduce side effects.
It offers an excellent treatment option for some patients whose primary cancer is under control, but have developed a small number of secondary brain lesions and whose previous options were extremely limited.
Chris added: “At the NCCC, our aim is to improve the diagnosis and management of cancers in the region by using the best available techniques and equipment. This complements our specialist cancer centre portfolio by ensuring we are keeping up with developing technologies so we can deliver the very best care for our patients.”
In December 2011, Charlie Bear for Cancer Care, a fund dedicated to raising money for the NCCC at the Freeman Hospital, launched an appeal to bring this combination of radiotherapy technology to the region. In less than one year, thanks to the overwhelming generosity and fundraising efforts of the public, the Charlie Bear appeal raised £200,000.
In November 2012, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation then made a massive £850,000 contribution to the appeal (their biggest single contribution at that time) which, with a £1.8 million investment from the Trust and an additional contribution of £150,000 from the Newcastle Healthcare Charity, was the amount needed to finally secure the new equipment for the NCCC.
The money contributed by the charities represents thousands of generous donations and amazing individual and group fundraising efforts from ordinary people in the North East, Cumbria and beyond.