Strike action from Thursday 27 June to Tuesday 2 July 2024

Junior doctors at The Christie will strike from 7am on Thursday 27 June until 7am on Tuesday 2 July 2024.

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The Christie celebrates fifth anniversary of ‘game changing’ radiotherapy service

Press release posted 22 May 2024

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust is celebrating the 5th birthday of its MR-Linac machine. The specialist cancer centre was one of the first hospitals in the world to treat people using this technology, which combines a normal radiotherapy unit with an MRI scanner. Over 250 people have been treated on the machine since it was first used to treat people in 2019.

With traditional radiotherapy, a single treatment plan is created and delivered at each appointment using computed tomography (CT) scans. The great thing about the MR-Linac is that it uses magnetic resonance (MR) imaging (X-ray free) and can re-plan a treatment “on the fly” at any treatment appointment, adapting to changes in real time. This means MR-guided radiotherapy can be more precise and potentially less damaging to healthy tissue. Having this accuracy is especially useful in hard-to-treat cancer where the tumour moves during radiotherapy or changes position between treatments.

The MR-Linac team at The Christie currently treats people with cancers of the prostate, cervix, bladder, pancreas, lung, liver and oropharynx, as well as patients with oligometastatic lymph nodes. Patients are all taking part in research as the machine isn’t currently commissioned by the NHS, although that is something they are working toward. In addition to treating people as part of these trials, the team has also carried out 585 research imaging sessions.

“Trying to combine high-quality soft tissue imaging with the ability to adapt treatments in real-time has been a challenge that scientists have been trying to solve for a long time, so the MR-Linac really is a game changer,” says Dr Cynthia Eccles, Head of Radiotherapy Research and Development at The Christie. “We’ve come so far in just 5 years; we started off just treating prostate cancer patients and have since expanded to treating 9 treatment sites using 11 different treatment protocols.”

As The Christie was one of the first cancer centres to get an MR-Linac, the team has achieved a lot of world firsts. These include being the first place to deliver a full course (all 25 appointments) of radiotherapy for cervical cancer, rather than just follow-up ‘boost’ treatment, and the first to use carbogen and nicotinamide to treat people with bladder tumours that have become deoxygenated and more resistant to radiotherapy.

“I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved over the last 5 years and am looking forward to what the future will bring,” continues Cynthia. “Everything we do is research as the MR-linac is a novel piece of equipment and not yet commissioned by the NHS, but the research we’re doing is proving the efficacy and safety of the technology so that more people with cancer can benefit from it as part of their standard treatment.”

Thomas Arden, 74, was treated for prostate cancer

A photo of Christie MR-Linac patient Thomas Arden.

Thomas Arden was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer in December 2022. He had hormone therapy and then was treated on the MR-Linac as part of the MOMENTUM trial. The aim of this study is to create a registry of the use of the MR-Linac so researchers can make treatment as effective as possible.

Thomas, who has been married to Jane for 20 years, is now enjoying spending time with his children and grandchildren and living an active life.

“I was lucky that my cancer was found early. I always felt very safe at The Christie. Not only was I being treated with cutting-edge technology – the MR-Linac – but everyone was so kind. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Katie Judge, 37, was treated for cervical cancer

A photo of Christie MR-Linac patient Katie Judge.

Katie was working as a ward manager at The Christie when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 34. She lives near Macclesfield with her partner, Greg, and their young son.

She had all her radiotherapy on the MR-Linac on the MOMENTUM trial. She also had chemotherapy and brachytherapy.

“Being diagnosed with cancer at 34 was a shock, but I knew I was in good hands at The Christie. Due to the precise nature of treatment with the MR-Linac, I had no side effects from my radiotherapy treatment at all. I was happy to take part in the trial as without research there wouldn’t be any new treatments. I’m doing my bit to help people like me in the future.”

Last updated: May 2024