World first as cancer radiation machine launched in Yorkshire

Vanessa Mewse has undergone procedure using a new beam focusing device
Vanessa Mewse has undergone procedure using a new beam focusing device
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Doctors in Yorkshire have become the first in the world to use a revolutionary new beam-shaping device to precision target radiation treatment for cancer patients.

The international first for St James’s Hospital in Leeds harnesses state-of-the-art equipment which experts hope could increase the effectiveness of radiotherapy treatment and also reduce its harmful side-effects.

The Agility device has been created by cancer and neurosurgery equipment specialist Elekta which has worked closely with doctors at the St James’s Institute of Oncology to develop the technology which it is believed will improve the quality of care for many thousands of cancer patients across Europe.

The advance is the latest at the hospital which treats cancer patients mainly from West Yorkshire and parts of North Yorkshire but also provides specialist treatment to others further afield and is one of the leading research centres in the country.

The first patient to undergo treatment at St James’s using the technology, which was connected to one of the hospital’s highly-advanced research linear accelerators funded by the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal, was 62-year old Vanessa Mewse.

Mrs Mewse, of Leeds, has been fighting a combination of lung cancer, leukaemia and spinal cancer for three years and underwent a short and highly-targeted procedure to help control pain caused by her illnesses.

She said she was delighted with the speed of her treatment and was able to go home shortly afterwards.

“I’m extremely grateful for all the care and support I have had from staff here at St James’s and I feel very honoured to be the first patient treated using this new equipment,” she said. “It was over very quickly and with the minimum of fuss for me.”

Vivian Cosgrove, head of radiotherapy physics at St James’s, said it was a significant step forward.

“We are delighted to have achieved this landmark of introducing the first Agility into clinical use,” he said.

“The device will allow us to deliver highly-complex radiotherapy quicker and more accurately than current technology.

“This will help to improve the patient experience of radiotherapy and should also lead to superior outcomes.

“The Agility enhances the way we can target radiotherapy treatment beams to match the precise shape of a cancer.”

He added: “Combined with the latest therapy technique VMAT (Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy) where a therapy beam is continuously reshaped as it rotates about the patient, we can significantly raise the standard and quality of radiotherapy delivery.

“Leeds is already at the national forefront in the provision of stereotactic body radiotherapy for lung cancer.

“The Agility will help us bring further improvements to this already effective treatment technique.

“Our goal is to make this treatment technique and cutting-edge technology available to more of our patients.

“It is a testament to the staff and facilities available in St James’s that a large global company such as Elekta has chosen us as its partner to develop this new technology.

“The support of the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal and the people of Leeds and Yorkshire is gratefully acknowledged.”