A Stockport woman is set to become the first ever patient in the world to be entirely treated for cervical cancer using a state-of-art radiotherapy treatment at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust.
Karen Hall, 57, will be treated using the MR-guided linear accelerator (MR-linac) which is the first machine of its kind to do real-time MRI scans while it targets X-ray beams at tumours, making it more accurate and reducing side effects.
Karen, who lives in Offerton, will be the first ever cervical cancer patient in the world to receive a full course of this type of radiotherapy at the leading cancer centre using the Elekta Unity MR-linac.
The customer services consultant was diagnosed last month after going to see her GP with symptoms in December. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic Karen was quickly referred to The Christie in Manchester for treatment.
Being able to more specifically target tumours and avoid more healthy tissue around them means the machine can use target X-rays better. The £5.3M machine was part-funded by donations to The Christie charity.
Since the opening of the UK’s first NHS high energy proton beam centre in 2018 The Christie is now one of only two sites worldwide to offer both these pioneering radiotherapy treatments.
Karen is being treated by The Christie’s specialist gynaecological oncology team headed up by Professor Peter Hoskin, Dr Lisa Barraclough and Dr Kate Haslett.
Karen, who had only married her partner of 26 years, Dale, in September 2020, said: “It has obviously come as a bit of a shock having happened so quickly but I believe this treatment will give me a better quality of life and minimal side-effects.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but considering we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic I’m very grateful to have been seen and referred so quickly. The care I’ve received has been amazing.
“It’s also nice to know that my treatment is helping vital research for cancer patients in the future.”
The MR-guided linear accelerator (MR-linac) combines magnetic resonance (MR) scanning and tumour-busting radiotherapy to deliver magnetic resonance radiotherapy in one hi-tech package.
Karen’s treatment is part of the MOMENTUM trial which is a worldwide radiotherapy trial using the MR-linac. It aims to target a wide range of cancers to find out which cancers react best to the treatment before it is hopefully rolled out across the globe. The trial is being overseen by Dr Cynthia Eccles and the MR-linac team at The Christie and supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.
Professor Ananya Choudhury, Clinical project lead for MR-linac, at The Christie said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be part of a world first treatment here at The Christie.
“The MR-linac has already shown to be a valuable tool in terms of radiotherapy for other types of cancers, such as prostate. It is great to be able to broaden its scope to other cancers so that we can push forward vital research and improve patient outcomes.
“In this case the MR-linac is extremely adept at treating cervical cancer because the cervix lies close to some very sensitive areas, high doses of radiotherapy risk damaging the tissue surrounding it and increase the risk of side-effects.
“With the MR-linac we can better target the cervix while avoiding these areas, so we can safely deliver higher doses of radiation.”
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.