Clinical scientists work on new radiotherapy device

The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) has made the award to academics from the University of Bristol and Swansea University together with medical physicists at Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre.

While advances in radiation therapy have meant more accurate targeting of tumours, errors in treatment can still occur because of the complex technology that is used.

Radiation therapy is often carried out using a machine with finely engineered components which shape the radiation field directed at the tumour.  The components are in motion throughout the treatment in order to vary the radiation intensity and sculpt the radiation dose precisely to the tumour shape.  This means that tumours can be more accurately targeted, greatly reducing the damage from radiation to surrounding tissue and sensitive organs. 

However, one consequence of this is that changes to the radiation beam cannot be easily detected, so that if a fault occurs, it may not be immediately spotted.  This has resulted in a significant number of mistreatments in recent years, particularly in the United States, where adoption of this new technology has been more widespread.

Dr Jaap Velthuis from the University of Bristol’s School of Physics, and one of the scientists involved in the project, said: “We are working on a detector based on very thin silicon camera systems which will not interfere with the radiation beam, and will provide the radiographer with an instantaneous real time image of the beam as it is delivered.

“This system will immediately detect inaccurate treatments, allowing any errors to be corrected before the patient suffers any adverse consequences.  Costs of treatment will also be reduced as fewer mistreatments means more efficient patient care.”

The funding is awarded to produce a fully functional prototype and will run for 17 months. The final device could be operational in hospitals around the globe within three years after completion of the prototype.

Please contact Aliya Mughal for further information.

Further information:

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) provides the framework through which the research staff and research infrastructure of the NHS in England is positioned, maintained and managed as a national research facility. The NIHR provides the NHS with the support and infrastructure it needs to conduct first-class research funded by the Government and its partners alongside high-quality patient care, education and training. Its aim is to support outstanding individuals (both leaders and collaborators), working in world-class facilities (both NHS and university), conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients.