Secondary cancers can now be treated with SABR technology at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care

Patients with secondary cancers (oligometastatic disease) have now started to be treated at the Freeman Hospital's Northern Centre for Cancer Care using a pioneering and precise form of radiotherapy called SABR.

SABR, or Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy, allows tumours to be treated with a high degree of accuracy, minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

Mr Geoffrey Proudlock, first patient to receive SABR for secondary cancer

Earlier this year it was announced that the Northern Centre for Cancer Care (NCCC), which has SABR capability, was selected by NHS England as one of only 17 centres in the UK to take part in an exciting new initiative to evaluate and treat certain patients with oligometastatic disease (which means their cancer has spread to up to three other parts of the body and cannot be treated surgically).

Bringing SABR technology to the North East was only made possible thanks to a special collaboration between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and local hospital charities – the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Charlie Bear for Cancer Care and the Newcastle Healthcare Charity. Through the support and generosity of people from all over the Northern Region and beyond, who have made countless donations to these local charities, the NCCC was provided with funding of £1.2 million to contribute towards the purchase of this new technology.

Dr Philip Atherton, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at NCCC explains: “Under this new National Initiative, SABR can now be used to treat patients with cancer which has spread to other parts of the body (also known as secondary cancer), for example, the lungs, liver or bone.

We are already using SABR to treat people with early stage lung cancers and have done since we started the SABR programme at the Freeman Hospital in June 2014.  We are therefore focusing on secondary tumours affecting the lung in the first instance, with plans to start treating tumours of the liver, adrenal glands, lymph nodes, bones and spines over the coming months”.

The complex preparations and planning for using SABR treatment for secondary tumours of  the liver are already underway, and the specialist Radiotherapy Team at NCCC hope to begin treating liver patients within the next few weeks.

Rebecca Pickles, one of the country’s few Consultant Therapeutic Radiographers, adds: “The treatment for other tumour types is being introduced gradually as planning to use this type of radiotherapy on other parts of the body takes time. It involves many complex factors such as the type of tumour being treated, where it is positioned, the depth of surround tissues involved, and so on.”

Whilst evidence has shown that SABR can be effective when treating one form of lung cancer known as non-small cell lung cancer, more information is required for other cancers and so the clinical outcomes of the treatment of oligometastatic disease can now be gathered under this scheme.

As Dr Atherton explains: ‘This is a national programme funded through the Commissioning through Evaluation initiative which allows patients access to promising new treatments.  As such, it will be very closely monitored by NHS England.  Under the scheme, NHS England need to be informed of every patient identified for SABR treatment, with details of how patients have been selected and samples of the initial treatment plans. Patients are very carefully assessed following detailed discussion at our multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meetings which involve Oncologists, Surgeons, Radiologists and Pathologists amongst many others.

We are also intending to appoint a specially trained Data Manager to help with collecting all the data which then is fed back to NHS England in order to fully understand the outcomes of this exciting new treatment – side effects and quality of life, as well as how effective SABR is at controlling the disease.”



The first patient in the North East to be treated using SABR under the new national initiative is Geoffrey Proudlock, an Alderman of Northumberland and former Mayor for Morpeth.

The 72 year old grandfather, who runs a family business with his daughter in Alnwick, has now had SABR treatment for secondary tumours in both lungs.

As Mr Proudlock, explains: “I was found to have bowel cancer some four years ago after an endoscopy to investigate a bit of bleeding I was having. I had surgery three weeks later at Wansbeck General Hospital which was, as far as we knew, successful.

“Then, two years later a CT scan picked up a small tumour in one of my lungs. I saw an Oncologist who referred me to one of the Cardiothoracic Surgeons at the Freeman Hospital and he removed a lobe from the lung. It all seemed to have gone well, and then we found these two further tumours.”

Because Mr Proudlock has a tumour in each lung, he would be unsuitable for further surgery and so he was referred to Dr Atherton at NCCC, to be considered for SABR.

Mr Proudlock adds: “I’ve had the most fantastic care treatment from everyone involved at both the Freeman and Wansbeck Hospitals, and am a great supporter of the NHS. I was already aware of the new SABR as my wife had been researching the latest treatments but it was only previously available in London.

“I very pleased that it’s made its way up to the North East and to be able to take part in the new programme. So far I feel fine, if a little more breathless than usual, but I enjoy a good round of golf and am of a certain age, so that’s to be expected I suppose!”

Mr Proudlock will now need to be monitored regularly to keep an eye on his condition with a follow up CT scan in six months’ time, to see how effective the SABR has been.  Radiotherapy itself can cause some degree of swelling, so it is best to wait for this length of time in order to be able to accurately assess whether the tumour has stopped growing or shrunk.

Notes to Editors:

NHS England pledged to commit £15 million over three years to evaluate and treat cancer patients with a highly precise type of Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR). This pledge is part of their ‘Commissioning Through Evaluation’ programme, set up to provide patients with access to treatments not routinely available on the NHS.

The three year programme aims to increase access to specialist radiotherapy services; only available at the most advanced cancer centres like NCCC one of the few places in the country currently able to offer cutting edge radiotherapy technology such as SABR.

Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR)

The aim of SABR is to completely destroy (or ablate) the tumour. This can reduce pain or other symptoms, prevent further spread of cancer, or delay the need for chemotherapy or hormone therapy.

SABR for oligometastases is relatively new treatment. Current research has shown promising results with relatively few side effects.

NHS England’s Commissioning through Evaluation programme

NHS England’s Commissioning through Evaluation programme will increase the number of cancers being treated to include oligometastatic disease (where cancer has spread to one or a limited number of other sites in the body, and is at a stage where localised treatments on these tumours may still significantly delay or even stop the progression of the cancer).

A number of centres are ready to treat patients with some conditions straight away, and the programme will be fully rolled-out for all eligible patients in the coming months.

NHS England’s investment in the Commissioning through Evaluation programme is in addition to its pledge to fund up to £6m over the next five years to cover the NHS treatment costs of SABR clinical trials funded by Cancer Research UK.

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