University Hospitals Plymouth celebrate treating 100th lung cancer patient with specialist technique

The Radiotherapy and Oncology teams at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust are celebrating having successfully treated their 100th lung cancer patient using Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR).

SABR is a specialist technique that provides precise high dose radiotherapy treatment to patients with early peripheral lung cancer over a shorter period of time. In 2018, University Hospitals Plymouth became the first NHS Trust in Devon and Cornwall to deliver this service.

“The Trust had already been providing SABR treatment for patients with SRS brain tumours for a number of years,” explains Nikki Blackler, Head of Treatment Planning. “We then began to offer SABR to lung cancer patients just over a year ago, after securing an NHS England contract as a commissioned provider in Devon.

“SABR targets tumours with a greater dose of radiation than conventional radiotherapy per session. SABR patients are therefore treated in a matter of days, rather than a number of weeks.

“For patients suitable for SABR treatment, it is a much more effective and efficient means of treating tumours. Not only do patients tend to experience fewer side effects, but as the actual treatment time is shorter, more patients can be treated in one day, thus increasing capacity.”

The SABR team The 100th patient treated at University Hospitals Plymouth with SABR for lung cancer was 74-year-old Ronald Lynch. We filmed one of his radiotherapy sessions and asked what he thought of the service.

“I was absolutely amazed at how easy and quick it all was,” he said. “I thought it would be painful, but it wasn’t at all. You simply lie still on a bed while this machine rotates around you. That’s it.

“To be honest the idea of having cancer is terrifying, but the team here make it so much less scary. They really are worth their weight in gold and we are so lucky to have this service here in Plymouth.”

Dr Amy Roy, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, adds: “The delivery of SABR is highly technical and complex, as the Linear Accelerator machine treats as it rotates, attacking tumours from all angles as it moves around the patient. This therefore requires a great deal of planning, as well as ensuring that the patient is lined up perfectly with the machine, in order to target the tumour precisely. In fact, the majority of time in each session involves taking x-rays and CT images to ensure the patient is in the correct position, down to the nearest millimetre. Only once we are certain of this will we proceed with the actual treatment.

“The delivery of SABR therefore requires a team effort, from the first referral from the clinical team, to the treatment planning team who design the treatment and programme the machine, to the radiography team who provide the sessions. We are very lucky to have such highly trained and dedicated staff here in the South West.”

Watch Ron's treatment in this video