Hundreds more cancer patients from the North East and Cumbria to benefit from leading edge Tomotherapy technology

The Newcastle Hospitals have taken another positive step toward the fight against cancer with the unveiling of a brand new TomoTherapy Machine.

The TomoTherapy machine based at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care (NCCC’s) Radiotherapy Department, is a highly specialised system that provides extremely precise targeting and attacking of cancer cells, and allows staff to treat even more patients with the most modern type of radiotherapy, known as Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT).

The machine also has an inbuilt CT scanner which provides detailed images of the patient’s anatomy throughout the treatment, allowing our cancer experts to closely monitor the progress and effectiveness of the treatment.


Our second TomoTherapy Machine with the multidisciplinary Radiotherapy Team who maintain and use it to treat patients

This advanced approach helps to effectively treat hard-to-reach and complex tumours and also minimises damage to surrounding healthy tissue during treatment, lowering the risk of side effects for our cancer patients

Gill Lawrence, Head of Radiotherapy Physics at NCCC explains: “A key feature of TomoTherapy is the ability to allow the oncology team to design highly personalised treatment plans for each patient whereas conventional radiation therapies often treat many cancers in the same way.

“With TomoTherapy, the treatment plans can be adjusted at any time during the course of treatment, with the patient’s responses to the treatment monitored using inbuilt CT scanner technology. This allows doctors to adjust treatments as they go, depending upon changes in the patient’s anatomy.

“It also delivers treatment much more quickly than ever before and has allowed us to reduce our average treatment delivery times from 8 minutes to 3 minutes for some complex treatments.”

So how does TomoTherapy work?

TomoTherapy treatment differs to other radiation treatments by “modulating” a single beam into many smaller, narrow “beamlets”. Each beamlet can deliver a different dose of radiation.  These dosages vary depending on size of tumour, where it is and the surrounding healthy tissue.

The TomoTherapy system attacks tumours with highly precise radiation delivered from 360 degrees around the patient. This increases the control doctors can have in targeting radiation towards cancer cells and away from healthy tissue and organs.

The positive impact this can have for the patient is huge. Expert guiding can result in fewer and less severe side effectsand many patients feel better than they expected they would whilst undergoing TomoTherapy treatment.

Before beginning TomoTherapy treatment, a specialised treatment planning team will put together a plan using 3-D images from a combination of scanning technologies (such as CT and MRI) and special software that help define the size and shape of each tumour and proximity to surrounding sensitive organs or tissues.

The clinical radiotherapy planning team decides how much radiation the tumour should receive, as well as acceptable levels for nearby healthy tissue. (This can be adapted at any point to deliver best treatment to patients at the right time).

As well as the new TomoTherapy machine, the treatment room has had very special luminous ceiling artwork installed thanks to Charlie Bear for Cancer Care, the NCCC’s own dedicated charitable fund The ‘SkyCeiling’ is a virtual skylight which gives the illusion of real sky views to alleviate stress and help patients relax.

Gill adds: “We are extremely lucky to work for a Trust which takes such a positive stance towards investing in its staff and facilities, ensuring our patients receive the very best care and treatment possible.  We also say a huge thank you to all those who have donated to Charlie Bear for Cancer Care. Without our supporters, we wouldn’t have been able to fund the wonderful SkyCeiling which gives our patients something nice to look at, helping to distract them as they have their treatment.”

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