The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Leeds scientists to lead the way in next generation of radiotherapy research

4 November 2019

LEEDS scientists and clinicians have been awarded a major cash boost from Cancer Research UK to pioneer new radiotherapy technologies and techniques that could help more people in Yorkshire survive cancer in the future.

Led by Professor David Sebag-Montefiore, experts from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Leeds are set to receive £3.5 million over the next five years to fund advances in radiotherapy research, including the use of artificial intelligence with imaging technology.

Leeds has been chosen to be one of just seven Centres of Excellence in a UK-wide network, RadNet, that will accelerate advances in radiotherapy research. Other centres include Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford, Glasgow and London.

Today, the Leeds Cancer Centre, based at St James’s University Hospital, is one of the largest radiotherapy centres in the UK treating more than 7,400 new cancer patients from across the region every year. Radiotherapy is used in over 40% of patients cured of their cancer. 

Directed by Professor Sebag-Montefiore, the research at the Leeds Centre of Excellence will combine the use of artificial intelligence, magnetic resonance imaging and new drugs with radiotherapy, focussing on patients with anal, rectal, prostate, liver and brain cancers. 

The support of the Trust hospitals charity Leeds Cares played a key role in the successful bid for the Centre of Excellence funding, raising £2.4 million to purchase a dedicated MRI simulator, a critical piece of equipment to allow patients to have MRI scans performed in the radiotherapy department. It will be the first MRI simulator to be installed in Yorkshire

CRUK RadNet Prof David Sebag Montefiore x4 v3The new funding will also pay for 13 new researcher posts and strengthen Leeds’s position as an excellent destination to train the next generation of researchers.

Professor Sebag-Montefiore said: “We are very proud that Leeds has been awarded this grant to bring the next generation of radiotherapy treatments to patients sooner, helping to save the lives of more people with cancer in Yorkshire.”

“Using artificial intelligence analysis of the MRI scans will help us to tailor future treatment for patients and reduce side effects, resulting in new, precise and personalised treatments - and a better quality of life afterwards - in the next five to ten years.

“This funding from Cancer Research UK will help us accelerate our development of new and advanced radiotherapy techniques, leading to the best treatment approaches for patients across a broad range of cancers, challenging the boundaries of this mainstay treatment through world-first exploratory projects and taking our research in Leeds to an internationally-leading level.”

Yvette Oade, Deputy Chief Executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Leeds Cancer Centre treats over 7,400 new cancer patients each year with radiotherapy, and at Leeds Teaching Hospitals we are fully committed to providing the best integrated care and helping to accelerate the development of new and better treatments. 

“We promote and support excellence in clinical work along with the research that creates new and exciting treatments and creating a new Centre of Excellence will help more of our patients survive cancer in the future.  We are proud to work in partnership with the University of Leeds and charities like Cancer Research UK and Leeds Cares to make all of this possible.”

Leeds Cares Interim Managing Director Andrew Cratchley said: “We are incredibly proud that donations to Leeds Cares enable us to support many services across the hospital, including the Radiotherapy Department at Leeds Cancer Centre. 

“Thanks to the inspiring generosity of our donors, we have been able to fund projects like the MRI simulator.   With ongoing support, we can continue to make a huge difference to radiotherapy patients across Yorkshire and beyond.”

In total, Cancer Research UK is investing £56 million in Cancer Research UK RadNet – the charity’s largest ever investment in radiotherapy research.

Radiotherapy is a precise treatment that is given to patients as an out-patient on a daily basis. In its simplest form, it uses high energy X-ray radiation beams to selectively kill cancer cells by irreversibly damaging their DNA, while minimising the effect on the surrounding normal tissues.

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “Achieving the status of a Cancer Research UK Centre of Excellence is important recognition of our overall commitment to excellence in cancer care and the science which underpins it, in particular the outstanding quality and impact of radiotherapy research in Leeds.”

Nicki Embleton, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Yorkshire, said: “This award is fantastic recognition of the world leading radiotherapy research taking place here in Leeds, which will help shape a better future for people with cancer in Yorkshire through new technologies and treatments.

“People in the city have every right to feel proud of the ground-breaking research being carried out on their doorstep, and of their fundraising efforts, which are helping to beat the disease.”

To find out more about the new radiotherapies and techniques watch the video explanation from Prof. David Sebag-Montefiore here:

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