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15 June 2015

UH Bristol selected for national evaluation of new radiotherapy treatment

University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol) has been selected by NHS England to evaluate an innovative new form of radiotherapy treatment.

The Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre (BHOC) has been selected as one of 17 centres nationwide to participate in NHS England's commissioning through evaluation (CTE) programme of stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) - a modern, more precise delivery technique of radiotherapy, which delivers high doses of radiation while causing less damage to surrounding healthy tissue than conventional radiotherapy.

Evidence shows that SABR can be effective when used to treat non-small cell lung cancer. The NHS already funds this, and since February 2014, the BHOC has been offering SABR treatment to NHS patients with non-small cell lung cancer, whose other health issues mean they are not suitable for surgery to remove the tumour.

However, there is less clinical evidence to show that SABR is effective for other cancers. To gather the evidence it needs, NHS England is working with the clinical and research community to assess the use of SABR to treat a wider range of cancer conditions.

The nationwide CTE programme will increase the number of cancers being treated to include oligometastatic disease (cancer that is in an early stage of spread to another part of the body), primary liver tumours and the re-irradiation of cancers in the pelvis and spine, with the BHOC offering the treatment for oligometastatic disease.

A patient's clinician will identify whether they are a potential candidate for the programme and they will be referred on where appropriate.

Charles Comins, consultant clinical oncologist at the BHOC, said: "We're delighted to have been selected as the only Trust in the South West to take part in NHS England's CTE programme for SABR. This programme recognises the contribution that advanced radiotherapy techniques can have in treating patients with cancer. We are keen to build on our centre's experience in using SABR for peripheral lung tumours. The programme will allow us to use SBAR to treat patients whose cancer has spread to other organs. Initially, this will be for lung tumours, but as the programme develops we will be able to treat liver, lymph node, bone and adrenal tumours using this technique."

Steve Blake, head of radiotherapy physics at UH Bristol, said: "We welcome the invitation to contribute to this programme. It will be an opportunity for us to demonstrate the advantages of modern treatment techniques and the culmination of a period of investment in new technology. Our team are pleased to be able to use their expertise to build on the positive early results for the benefit of patients."

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said: "This is a great day for hundreds of cancer patients who will now be able to access this cutting-edge innovative treatment up and down the country.  This programme will allow us to assess this promising type of radiotherapy while enabling people who may benefit to access it as close to home as possible."  

NHS England's investment in the Commissioning through Evaluation programme is in addition to its pledge to fund up to £6m over the next five years to cover the NHS treatment costs of SABR clinical trials funded by Cancer Research UK.