Hospital first in UK to use Catalyst technology in the radiotherapy treatment of breast cancer patients

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The James Cook University Hospital’s radiotherapy department has become the first in the country to use Catalyst technology to improve further the accuracy of radiotherapy delivered to breast cancer patients.

The Endeavour unit James Cook Hospital

Patient movement can sometimes occur during treatment affecting the precision of radiotherapy delivered. This innovative system is used for positioning and monitoring movement of patients before and during radiotherapy, to provide a new level of treatment quality and safety.

Catalyst works by ‘projecting’ green and red light directly onto the patient to generate a 3D surface map of the area to be treated, giving immediate and real-time feedback on the patient’s position and highlighting if adjustments need to be made.

It is currently the only system of its type in the UK, meaning that patients across the Tees Valley are receiving one of the most cutting-edge treatments available – a level of service currently only available to breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy at The James Cook University Hospital.

Donations of over £100,000 to the STAR fund and South Cleveland cancer research fund, both of which are part of South Tees Hospitals Charity, have enabled the unit to buy the technology for local patients.

Around 700 new patients with a breast cancer diagnosis are seen every year in the radiotherapy department and it is expected this new development will benefit their treatment. The department aims to use this technology in the near future to introduce another cutting edge technique – “Deep Inspiration Breath Hold” – which aims to avoid any unwanted effects of treatment to heart and lung tissue.

Consultant clinical oncologist Dr Nicola Storey said: “Radiotherapy is a complex process but essentially our aim is to deliver the highest possible dose of radiation to a tumour, while minimising any effect on surrounding healthy tissues.

“What Catalyst does is help with the patient’s alignment and positioning without the need for markers, as all required information is obtained using the light projected on the skin”.

One of the first patients to benefit from Catalyst is Fiona Foster, part of the farming community in Rosedale, North Yorkshire, who recently underwent 15 days of consecutive radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer (excluding weekends) at the hospital.

Fiona Foster

Fiona Foster

“The team explained they had this new system and asked me if I was okay with them using it – I was one of their first guinea pigs, if you like, but I was fine with that,” she said.

“I was lucky the way my cancer was picked up – I was randomly chosen to be part of a mammography screening trial in the under 50s and actually the night before my test was checking myself and thought I don’t like the feel of that.

“I recently completed my course of treatment and feel absolutely fine – much better than I thought I would – and the support of my husband and family has been fantastic.”

The Catalyst device, supplied by Vertec Scientific, who represent Swedish biotech firm C-Rad in the UK, is attached to the ceiling in a radiotherapy treatment suite and optically monitors body movements and breathing of patients on the table.

Vertec product specialist Michael Davis said: “We have served the radiotherapy market for many years and I can safely say this is a very exciting time for us, James Cook and Catalyst – a great partnership.”

Clinical director of oncology Dr Nick Wadd added: “We are delighted that the kind donations from the STAR and South Cleveland Cancer Research funds have helped buy this piece of equipment – the only one in this country – which will improve the treatment we provide for our patients and helps maintain our position as one of the leading centres for radiotherapy in the UK.”