World first for cancer treatment at NNUH
Patients at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) will be the first in the world to benefit from a new cancer treatment machine.
The state-of-the-art device, called the Varian Bravos afterloader system for brachytherapy treatments, will be used to treat some gynaecological and prostate cancers with a form of radiotherapy at the hospital’s Colney Centre.
The new system, made by Varian, can potentially reduce the amount of treatments patients need by directly targeting tumours with high dose rate (HDR) radiotherapy.
Bravos replaces a cancer treatment machine that had been used at NNUH since 2003 and has been funded through the Trust’s managed equipment service contract with Medipass Healthcare Ltd.
Vicki Currie, Lead Clinical Scientist for Brachytherapy at the NNUH, said standard radiotherapy uses radiation directed at the tumour from outside the body. Brachytherapy places radioactive sources inside or near a tumour to reduce long-term side effects and reduces the risk of damaging healthy tissue.
She added that brachytherapy can result in less visits to hospital for some patients.
“We hope it will make a difference to patients in Norfolk and the wider area as the only other centres that offer brachytherapy in the region are in Cambridge and Colchester. They can have this done as a day case and it gives us capacity for more patients to be treated,” she said.
The new machine received its global launch by Varian at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiotherapy and Oncology conference in San Antonio, Texas, on 20th October.
Katie Cooper, Consultant Radiographer (Brachytherapy), added: “This gives a much higher dose with less side effects. It is safer, cuts down on treatment times and it frees up space in our theatres.”
Sophie Wetherall, product manager for Varian, said: “The NNUH is the first in the world and the first clinical site to be using Bravos.
We have been working very closely with the team at NNUH over the past year to help bring this new system to market. We are excited that Bravos is now available and potentially more patients have access to this treatment.”
An expansion of brachytherapy treatments, to include prostate cancer at NNUH, was made possible thanks to the generosity of people who supported the Targeted Radiotherapy Appeal – a £600,000 public appeal that funded the creation of a purpose built brachytherapy space within the department at NNUH to provide a multi-purpose room for anaesthesia and brachytherapy treatment with a dedicated recovery area as well as additional equipment needed for these treatments.
Mark Davies, NNUH Chief Executive, said: “I am delighted that NNUH is the first in the world to use this new machine, which reinforces our reputation as a major centre for cancer treatment at the forefront of modern technology.
I’d like to pay tribute to everyone at the hospital, our supporters and Varian who have made this project a reality.”
What is brachytherapy?
Standard radiotherapy uses radiation directed at the tumour from outside the body so that the radiation travels through normal tissue to get to the tumour. This means that some normal tissue may get damaged, although modern techniques aim to keep this to a minimum. Brachytherapy involves placing radioactive sources inside or near a tumour. As the radiation is delivered internally it does not have to pass through so much normal tissue, which reduces the long-term side effects. It also means the dose that tumours can receive is significantly higher, which in turn can potentially improve cure rates and reduce treatment times.