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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Specialist radiosurgery treatment now available in Oxfordshire

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Patients from Banbury and the surrounding areas who need a highly specialised treatment for small brain tumours (metastases) will now be able to have their treatment at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. Previously, patients would have needed to travel further afield for this kind of treatment, including to London and Sheffield.

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a way of targeting a high dose of radiotherapy very precisely at the tumour in a single treatment. As the radiotherapy machine rotates around the patient, the shape of the beam is constantly modified using small leaflets so that the treatment can be sculpted around small tumours.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of 17 centres to have been awarded a contract as a recommended service provider by NHS England to deliver SRS for patients from across Thames Valley and Northamptonshire. The first patients will receive the treatment in Oxford in June 2017. Over the following six months, patients with other types of small tumours will also be able to receive their SRS treatment in Oxford.

The radiotherapy treatment is targeted very accurately, so it is vital that the patient's head is in exactly the same position for planning and delivering the treatment, and that they do not move during the procedure. To achieve this, the patient wears a mask which covers the whole head and is moulded to the shape of their face. It is made of a plastic mesh which allows the patient to see and breathe through it. The tumour area to receive treatment is outlined by an expert team of neuroradiologists, neurosurgeons and neuro-oncologists.

The system is used to position the patient very precisely by moving the couch in all directions including tilting. SRS has the advantage of being accurate to less than 1mm, so that radiotherapy can be directed on the tumour without damage to surrounding healthy tissue in areas such as the brain stem or optic nerve. The department had to undergo rigorous quality assurance checks to demonstrate that the high degree of accuracy achieved by the SRS treatment is in line with that achieved by all 17 centres delivering this treatment. 

A similar focused body treatment called SABR (stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy) is used to treat lung and certain liver cancers and small volume metastatic cancer and has been available in the Trust for over five years.

Dr Claire Blesing, Clinical Director for Oncology and Haematology and Head of Radiotherapy at OUH, said: "We are delighted that patients across the Thames Valley with very small brain tumours which require highly focused treatment will now have local access to stereotactic radiosurgery.

"We work closely with the CRUK/MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology to develop new radiotherapy treatments here, and in 2016 we were designated one of only three National Cancer Research Institute CTRad Centres of Excellence in Academic Radiation Oncology."