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Groundbreaking treatment for cancer

PUBLISHED: 16:24 03 August 2001 | UPDATED: 15:16 03 March 2010

A GROUNDBREAKING new laser machine to treat cancer has been unveiled at Ipswich Hospital.

Not only is the machine the first of its kind to be used in the country, it is also the first to be used in Europe.

A GROUNDBREAKING new laser machine to treat cancer has been unveiled at Ipswich Hospital.

Not only is the machine the first of its kind to be used in the country, it is also the first to be used in Europe.

Called linear accelerators, the machines are so precise that it can get within one millimetre of a cancer tumour.

Developed by American company Varian Medical Systems, have come to Ipswich Hospital after a £5 million government grant enabled the building of a special cancer award.

Two of the machines, costing £1 million each, are now in use at the cancer unit at the hospital's Woolverstone Wing, which will provide the new treatment for up to six patients every hour.

The treatment – called Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy – allows specialist clinicians to treat tumours more directly, sparing the healthy tissue surrounding a cancerous tumour and therefore reducing side effects.

Radiation destroys the cancerous cells and is widely used for major non-surgical cancer treatments.

Michael Sandu, of Varian Medical Systems, said that specialist training has been given to all radiotherapists and clinicians in how to deliver the treatment.

"It will all be done by remote control and video cameras - nobody will be in the room at the time because of the radiation.

"The machine is housed in a special radiation bunker which has concrete walls that are two metres thick.

"Before these new machines, we could only treat a square or rectangular area around the tumour, which had the potential to damage the healthy area - the only way round this was to block out parts of the laser with lead, which was very time consuming."

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for the hospital, said that the new machines are fantastic news for the town.

"This is a highly innovative development for the hospital – it is not available anywhere else in Europe.

"The machine can treat all sorts of cancer including those which were previously untreatable here and it is far more efficient."

n The extension to the Cancer Centre at the Ipswich Hospital will be formally opened by Professor Mike Richards, National Cancer Director, early next month.

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