Cancer patient benefits from pioneering radiotherapy treatment


Posted on Thursday 17 September 2015
250815, Vivien Exall

Vivien Exall after her SABR treatment

A cancer patient at Guy’s and St Thomas’ has been treated with an innovative form of radiotherapy as part of a national programme to assess its effectiveness to treat a new range of tumours.

Vivien Exall, 65, from Beckenham, is the first patient at the Trust to be treated with stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) as part of the NHS England programme that launched in June.

SABR is a higher and more precise dose of radiation that causes less damage to surrounding healthy tissue than conventional radiotherapy. 

SABR is already used at Guy’s and St Thomas’ to treat patients with a specific type of lung cancer. Now, as part of the programme, patients with three different types of cancer will be treated with the pioneering technique.

After successfully battling breast cancer in 2009, Vivien discovered in 2014 that she had a secondary tumour in her spine. She was referred to Guy’s and St Thomas’ for treatment when surgery was ruled out.

Vivien says: “My tumour was very slow growing and so close to the nerves in my spine that it would just have been too dangerous for me to have surgery.

“I didn’t know what other treatment options I had, I could have faced months of chemotherapy. All the staff at St Thomas’ were so enthusiastic about me joining the SABR programme, I’ve really felt like I’ve been on a new and exciting journey with them by taking part.

“I’ve had three doses of the radiotherapy and so far I feel really well. If my involvement in the programme will help people with cancer to receive the best possible treatment in the future then that is just wonderful.”

The three-year NHS England programme focuses on three different types of cancer - cancer that has spread to another part of the body, primary liver tumours, and the re-irradiation of cancers in the pelvis and spine. Guy’s and St Thomas’ will treat at least 75 patients a year with all three types.

Consultant Oncologist Dr David Landau says: “We are very pleased with how Vivien’s treatment has gone so far. By targeting her tumour with SABR, we’ve been able to offer her best chances of controlling the spread of her cancer.”

Angela Francis, Head of Radiotherapy at Guy’s and St Thomas’, says: “Opening up our established SABR programme to a wider range of patients is a great step forward in treating these three types of cancer.  

“We’re hopeful that the SABR treatment will successfully destroy these cancers, enabling our patients to live longer, healthier lives.”

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