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Caption: From left, Hazel McCallum, Consultant Clinical Scientist; Rachel Pearson, Consultant Clinical Oncologist; Karen Pilling, Clinical Lead Superintendent Radiographer; Keith Kirby, MR-only planning radiotherapy patient, Jonathan Wyatt, Clinical Scientist; Serena West, Imaging Superintendent Radiographer; Michele Wilkinson, Principal Dosimetrist.

Newcastle Hospitals is revolutionising prostate cancer treatment


The Northern Centre for Cancer Care (NCCC), based at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, has treated the first UK prostate cancer patients using pioneering MRI-only planning technology and radiotherapy.

Prostate cancer is the commonest cancer among men in the UK. Radiotherapy is an often used treatment given to prostate cancer patients and involves delivering a very high dose of radiation to the prostate gland and as low a dose as possible to surrounding healthy organs, such as the  bowel and bladder.

The treatment normally requires patients to attend for a CT scan in the radiotherapy department  as well as an MRI scan to gain a better image of the target and organs at risk - in this case the prostate,  bowel and bladder respectively.  NCCC was one of the first UK radiotherapy centres to use MRI in this way specifically for radiotherapy treatment planning.

Conventional workflow has been to combine the MRI scan with the CT data needed for accurate radiotherapy dose calculations.

Dual imaging requires patients to attend for two separate sessions. However, new MRI-only planning technology is now available which means the CT scan can be omitted. Careful validation of this approach now means that the patients need only attend for a single scanning session.  

Head of Radiotherapy Physics, Chris Walker, said: “It is particularly gratifying that the implementation of the most up to date technology allows our patients to benefit from spending less time in hospital.”

Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Rachel Pearson, added: “This new MRI-only system is already being used in several European radiotherapy departments and now, here in Newcastle, we have treated the first patients in the UK using this treatment pathway.

“Using one image rather than two allows us to better target the tumour and avoid healthy organs. It also reduces the amount of time patients are in hospital and the severity of side-effects, both in the short and longer term.

“We are very excited that, with support from the charity Charlie Bear for Cancer Care, we are able to bring this state-of-the-art treatment to our patients in the North East.”

Keith Kirby, aged 69, from Gosforth, is one of the first patients to benefit from the new technology at NCCC. He said: “Anything that can improve the technique and make the delivery of the radiotherapy more accurate has to be a good thing. I’m only too pleased to help by being a part of this new pre-treatment.”

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