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Press release
Wednesday 27 March 2024

Hospital Trust rolls out state-of-the-art radiotherapy technology to treat cancer patients


University Hospital Southampton (UHS) has rolled out state-of-the-art radiotherapy equipment across all seven of its units to treat patients with cancer and other conditions.

The technology – known as Surface Guided Radiation Therapy (SGRT) – is a cutting-edge technique which uses high-tech cameras and sensors to track the contours of a patient’s skin and produce a unique map of the surface of their body.

Combining this with x-rays for monitoring means that clinicians are able to determine the precise position and location that requires radiation treatment.

The equipment tracks and locks the target area precisely and is so sensitive that if it detects movement by even a fraction of a millimetre, it switches off the treatment beam to avoid any damage to surrounding soft tissue or vital organs.

Previously, planning and delivery of radiotherapy involved using permanent tattoos to mark the patient’s body for treatment using information from scans, x-rays and the treating clinician’s knowledge.

UHS, which treats around 4,000 patients every year with radiotherapy, was among one of the first sites in the UK to use updated versions of SGRT equipment and, while some other sites have now adopted the technology, few have rolled out across all units.

The radiotherapy treatment centre at UHS is one of the largest in the south of England, seeing patients from across Hampshire, Dorset, Berkshire, Wiltshire, the Isle of Wight, West Sussex and the Channel Islands.

The Trust is using two new systems – ExacTrac Dynamic made by Brain Lab and Align RT made by Vision RT – which both use the most advanced form of SGRT and it was the first in Europe to have an upgrade installed on the ExacTrac system.

Linac with AlignRT SGRT system (from VisionRT) at UHS
Radiotherapy team at UHS with the Linac with AlignRT SGRT system (from VisionRT)

“This technology and the volume of it now in use in our organisation – across all seven units – is enhancing the way radiotherapy is delivered in Southampton,” said Amy Shaw, radiotherapy technical lead radiographer at UHS.

“Surface Guidance is a rapidly growing technique using stereovision technology (3D measurements) to track patients’ bodies in 4D for both setup and motion management during their radiotherapy.

“It will help all patients undergoing radiotherapy by improving the efficiency and accuracy of their treatment, as well as removing the need for permanent tattoo marking.”

Ms Shaw added: “Very few centres in the UK are using this technology so extensively so we are in a very fortunate position and, as a result, were selected to have upgrades to cameras and software – becoming the first in Europe to use the new ExacTrac Dynamic system.

“I would like to acknowledge the hard work of everyone involved in commissioning and implementing SGRT quickly and safely, allowing us to offer this technology to more of our patients.”