Doctors use new 3D radiotherapy treatment to target head and neck cancers


Doctors at Southampton’s teaching hospitals are treating head and neck cancers with a new 3D radiotherapy technique which minimises damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

The treatment, known as intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), uses computer-controlled beams to send radiation directly to a tumour or specific areas within it.

As clinicians can pinpoint exactly where the radiation will be delivered, they can increase doses without affecting other areas of the head and neck such as the salivary glands, which can cause permanent dry mouth if damaged.

With conventional radiotherapy, which involves setting up the device manually to target the area of the tumour rather than the cancer alone, doctors have to limit doses to protect surrounding tissue and bone.

“This cutting-edge treatment allows us to target tumours much more accurately and increase the dose of radiation we can give,” said Dr Shanmugasundaram Ramkumar, a consultant clinical oncologist and IMRT lead at Southampton General Hospital.

“This means we are improving the chance of curing the disease while also minimising late side effects such as dry mouth, swallowing problems and bone damage.”

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust is the first in the Central South Coast Cancer Network, which covers Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Wilshire and West Sussex, to adopt the technology for routine clinical use.

Dr Ramkumar added: “IMRT will become the standard of care for head and neck cancer patients in all hospitals across the UK by 2017, so I am delighted we are ahead of the game and patients from across our region are already benefitting.”

Posted on Friday 31 August 2012