Southampton clinicians pioneer use of revolutionary cancer device

Cancer experts at Southampton’s teaching hospitals are set to become the first in the UK to use a revolutionary mobile device to deliver radiotherapy during surgery.

The Mobetron is the first portable system able to administer the treatment in this way – known as intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) – and will start to be used in operating theatres at Southampton General Hospital this month.

IORT is an intensive form of targeted radiation given at the time of surgery to treat a wide variety of advanced cancers that are difficult to remove and treat.

Using Mobetron technology, the radiation is given by high energy electron beams delivered with precision to a very specific location inside the body immediately after a cancer has been removed.

This enables surgeons and oncology specialists to deliver much higher doses of the anti-cancer treatment to areas at a high risk of recurrence without causing damage to surrounding healthy tissue and organs seen with conventional external beam radiotherapy.

Using conventional radiotherapy, which involves setting up a machine manually to target the area of a tumour rather than the cancer alone, doctors have to limit doses to protect surrounding structures.

Mobetron, which weighs two ton and is one-eighth the size of a standard external beam machine, is used specifically for IORT and can be wheeled between theatres with the potential to be used to treat several patients in different theatres every day.

The system, tested by experts at the National Physical Laboratory in London before being transported to Southampton, will be used initially to treat patients with pancreatic, neuroendocrine, colorectal and bladder tumours.

It is currently only available in 50 cancer centres based in Europe, North and South America and Asia.

The introduction of Mobetron at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has been made possible by patient support group and charity PLANETS, which is part of Southampton Hospital Charity and fundraises for pancreatic, liver and neuroendocrine tumour services.

Co-founded in 2010 by surgeon Neil Pearce alongside some of his former patients and colleagues, PLANETS has so far raised £350,000 of the £500,000 required to fund the Mobetron system for the next three years.

Mr Pearce, now associate medical director for patient safety at UHS, said: “This is a landmark moment for the treatment of advanced cancer in Southampton and across the UK.

“IORT using the Mobetron is a safe and effective standard of care in the treatment of complex cancers in a large number of internationally-renowned cancer centres and Southampton can now count itself among that group.”

Professor Peter Johnson, a consultant oncologist at UHS and head of cancer research in Southampton, said: “The practice of radiation oncology is undergoing a revolution, with new technology changing the way that cancer can be treated.

“This development is at the cutting-edge of modern radiation oncology and it will be exciting to see how it can be used to help patients in Southampton.”

Layla Stephen, co-founder and charity fund manager for PLANETS, added: “This machine will make a difference to so many patients and we are extremely proud of the achievement.

“We really could not have done it without such fantastic support from everyone, so thank you to each and every one of our supporters for their tremendous efforts.”

A team of cancer patients, alongside 55 doctors, nurses and friends, will ride 300km from London to Paris in 24 hours on Friday, 24 June in aid of PLANETS and the IORT fundraising campaign.

Dr Brian Stedman, a consultant interventional radiologist at UHS, said: “This is the ultimate cycling challenge and, although we know it will be gruelling, to reach milestones such as obtaining the Mobetron makes all the pain worthwhile.”

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Posted on Monday 13 June 2016