UK radiotherapy revolution: Seven leading institutions will usher in a ‘new era’ in £56million project to personalise the cancer treatment and reduce its side effects
- Seven UK centres will unite to pioneer development of radiotherapy research
- The network, RadNet, is the charity’s largest ever cash injection to radiotherapy
- It will develop Flash method, which fires pulses of radiation at lightning speeds
- Over 130,000 patients are treated with radiotherapy on the NHS every year
A £56million Cancer Research UK project has been hailed as a ‘new era’ in radiotherapy investment.
Five leading universities and two London research centres will join forces to pioneer the development of tumour-blasting techniques.
The network, named RadNet, is CRUK’s largest ever cash injection into exploratory radiotherapy studies and hopes to turbocharge Britain’s laboratories.
A slice of the money will fund the development of flash radiotherapy, in which pulses of intense radiation are fired into the body within a fraction of a second.
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of CRUK, said: ‘The launch of our network marks a new era of radiotherapy research in the UK.
Radiotherapy works by targeting tumours with x-ray radiation, killing cancer cells by irreversibly damaging their DNA (file photo)
‘Scientists will combine advances in our understanding of cancer biology with cutting-edge technology to make this treatment more precise and effective than ever before.’
Seven centres across the country will unite for the project: the universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford, the Cancer Research UK City of London Centre and The Institute of Cancer Research, London.
Of these hubs, Manchester has been awarded the largest sum of £16.5million.
It will use this to ‘personalise’ radiotherapy treatment for elderly patients, among other efforts to improve the therapy and reduce side effects.
Radiotherapy works by targeting tumours with x-ray radiation to kill cancer cells by irreversibly damaging their DNA.
More than 130,000 patients are treated with radiotherapy on the NHS every year (file photo)
WHAT IS RADIOTHERAPY?
Radiotherapy is a cancer treatment in which radiation is used to destroy tumour cells.
It is most commonly delivered as beams of radiation which are targeted at a tumour and are so powerful that the energy destroys the flesh it is aimed at.
Radiotherapy can also be done by temporarily putting radioactive implants into the body near the cancer, or by swallowing or injecting radioactive medicine.
Because radiation does not distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue, it can destroy healthy flesh as well.
This can cause side effects such as pain, sickness, tiredness, hair loss and loss of appetite.
Radiotherapy usually takes multiple sessions over a number of weeks, and it can be used to try and cure a tumour or just to relieve symptoms.
Researchers in the RadNet consortium will also focus on reducing the long-term side effects associated with the treatment.
Dry and itchy skin, fatigue and chest pains are among these side effects.
More than 130,000 patients are treated with radiotherapy on the NHS every year.
By optimising and personalising radiotherapy, Cancer Research UK’s RadNet hopes it can improve cancer survival.
It will work towards developing new techniques for delivering radiotherapy and investigate new radiotherapy-drug combinations, including immunotherapies.
It will also conduct further investigations into proton beam therapy, and ways to overcome hypoxia – low oxygen levels within tumours, resulting from rapid cancer growth that blood vessels can’t keep up with.
Some £13million has been allocated to form new research groups and fund additional PhD students in Manchester, London and Cambridge.
The network will promote collaboration between diverse scientific fields, with a share of £4million available to all centres for joint research projects, conferences and secondments between locations.
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