Cervical cancer treatment using MR-linac begins at The Christie

A Stockport woman is set to become the first patient in the world to be treated for cervical cancer entirely using state-of-the-art radiotherapy at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust. Karen Hall, who lives in Offerton, will receive a full course of this radiotherapy delivered using the Elekta Unity MR-linac.

Hall was diagnosed after going to see her GP with symptoms in December. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic she was quickly referred to The Christie in Manchester and is being treated by the specialist gynaecological oncology team headed up by Professor Peter Hoskin, Dr Lisa Barraclough and Dr Kate Haslett.

Being able to target tumours more specifically and avoid more healthy tissue around them means the machine can use target x-rays better. The £5.3 million machine was part-funded by donations to The Christie charity. Since the opening of the UK’s first NHS high energy proton beam centre in 2018, The Christie is said to be one of only two sites worldwide to offer both these pioneering radiotherapy treatments.

Karen Hall
Karen Hall

Hall said: “It has obviously come as a bit of a shock having happened so quickly but I believe this treatment will give me a better quality of life and minimal side effects. It has been a bit of a whirlwind but considering we are in the middle of the pandemic I’m very grateful to have been seen and referred so quickly.

“It is also nice to know that my treatment is helping vital research for cancer patients in the future.”

The treatment is part of MOMENTUM, a worldwide radiotherapy trial using MR-linacs. It aims to target a wide range of cancers to find out which react best to the treatment, be`fore it is rolled out around the world. The trial is being overseen by Dr Cynthia Eccles and the MR-linac team at The Christie, supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre. MR-linac clinical project lead Professor Ananya Choudhury said: “The MR-linac has already been shown to be a valuable tool in terms of radiotherapy for other types of cancers, such as prostate. It is great to be able to broaden its scope to other cancers so that we can push forward vital research and improve patient outcomes. In this case the MR-linac is extremely adept at treating cervical cancer because the cervix lies close to some very sensitive areas; high doses of radiotherapy risk damaging the tissue surrounding it and increase the risk of side effects. With the MR-linac we can better target the cervix while avoiding these areas, so we can safely deliver higher doses of radiation.”

Picture: Professor Ananya Choudhury and Dr Cynthia Eccles with the Unity MR-linac.

Published on the front page of the March 2021 issue of RAD Magazine.

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