Thursday, 29 November 2012


Radiotherapy equipment which will revolutionise cancer treatment for patients in the north east and Cumbria has been secured for the Freeman Hospital’s Northern Centre for Cancer Care thanks to £3 million funding from:

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - £1.8 million
The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation - £850,000
Charlie Bear Cancer Appeal - £200,000
Newcastle Healthcare Charity - £150,000

The ‘Cyber Surgery’ service will be equipped with the latest state-of-the-art technology (Varian’s TrueBeamTM STx with Novalis radiosurgery) and will be the first of its kind in the UK outside London.  This has been made possible through a special collaboration between local hospital charities and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

It will dramatically improve the accuracy of radiotherapy treatment delivery and will be used to treat tumours which are currently inoperable.

The term cyber surgery refers to stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR). This technology is capable of delivering extremely high doses of radiation with pin-point multi-dimensional accuracy to malignant and benign tumours that are small and not amenable to treatment by surgery or conventional radiotherapy.

Damage to surrounding tissue is minimal, vastly reducing the potential side effects and treatment is delivered in just a few short radiotherapy sessions. Cyber surgery has been likened to removing a grape from the centre of an orange, without damaging the orange.

The stereotactic radiotherapy equipment will be used to treat a number of tumour sites in both children and adults such as brain, lung, pancreas, prostate, head and neck, liver and spinal tumours, both malignant and benign. This includes tumours which are otherwise inoperable.

There is also potential for a large number of cancers currently requiring long courses of conventional radiotherapy to be treated and cured with shorter courses. Typically, a five to seven week course of conventional radiotherapy could be reduced to just one to three outpatient treatments.

Cyber surgery at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care will enable local cancer patients from the Scottish Borders to North Yorkshire and from the Northumberland coast to West Cumberland, a population of 3.1 million, to be treated more quickly and effectively than ever before.

In December 2011, Sir John Hall, a patron of Charlie Bear for Cancer Care, a fund dedicated to raising money for the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman Hospital, launched a £3 million appeal to bring this state of the art radiotherapy to the region.  In less than one year, thanks to the overwhelming generosity and fundraising efforts of the North East public, the appeal has raised £200,000.

Now, in a special collaboration, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has made a massive £850,000 contribution to the appeal which, with a £1.8 million investment from the Trust and an additional contribution of £150,000 from the Newcastle Healthcare Charity, is the amount needed to finally secure the cyber surgery equipment for the Northern Centre for Cancer Care.

This huge charitable contribution is down to the incredible individual and group fundraising efforts of ordinary people whose generosity has brought cyber surgery to the region. 

The joint announcement was made today, 29 November, at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. Representatives from the Charlie Bear Cancer Appeal, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Newcastle Healthcare Charity joined with Sir Leonard Fenwick, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, to make the announcement.

Speaking at the press briefing today, Sir Leonard says: “I am extremely proud to announce that stereotactic radiotherapy is coming to the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at the Freeman Hospital. This is a truly collaborative approach with the charities working together with the Trust to ensure that the very best cancer treatment available anywhere will now be available on our doorstep in the hands of our world-renowned cancer specialists and leaders in clinical research.  This gives us the best possible chance to beat cancer.”

Professor Ruth Plummer, Sir Bobby Robson’s oncologist and a trustee of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, says: “Sir Bobby launched this charity to make a genuine difference to other people fighting cancer and that’s just what we’ll do with this new equipment.

“Lady Elsie, Sir Bobby’s sons and all the Foundation’s medical trustees are all very excited by this latest generation of cyber surgery and what it will mean for patients. This equipment will allow us to research how best to use radiotherapy with some of the new drugs we have and so improve treatment for patients.

“It’s the largest contribution the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has made to date and we feel certain Sir Bobby would back our decision.  He would be very proud knowing the legacy he has left us through the charity is helping fund such important work – not only in helping treat people with cancer now but in the wider fight against the disease.

“It is a truly world-class facility which will work in tandem with the drug trials within the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre and new scanning made possible thanks to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation PET Tracer Production Unit.

“We’re fitting together pieces of a very special jigsaw here to help fight cancer and all thanks to the wonderful and generous support given to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.”

Sir John Hall, a patron of the Charlie Bear Cancer Appeal, and who has had his own experience of cancer, says: “When I launched the cyber surgery appeal in December last year, I had every faith that our wonderful, generous North East public would come up trumps and deliver this amazing technology for the Northern Centre for Cancer Care. 

"This collaborative approach, however, was beyond my wildest dreams.  Bringing cyber surgery to the North East means we will have the very best treatment in this region and it will save and prolong lives. This has changed the face of cancer treatment in the region but it is just the beginning. We now need to keep on raising more money to develop the service and make sure that we remain at the cutting edge of cancer treatment in this country.”

It is expected that the equipment will be in place from mid March 2013 and following a period of commissioning, be fully operational by the Autumn.

1.    Radiosurgery is a very precise, intense form of radiotherapy (radiation therapy). Despite the use of the word ‘surgery’ in its name, it does not involve removing the tumour with a surgical blade. Instead, a focused high-intensity beam of radiation is used to target the tumour. As a treatment method, radiosurgery has two equally important goals:  to destroy or control the growth of the tumour and to do so while minimizing exposure to the surrounding normal, healthy tissue. (Courtesy Varian Medical Systems Inc).

2.    The equipment to be installed at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care (the TrueBeamTM STx with Novalis radiosurgery) is manufactured by Varian Medical Systems Inc. of California.  Varian is the world’s leading manufacturer of medical devices and software for treating cancer and other medical conditions with radiotherapy, radiosurgery and brachytherapy.  The company supplies informatics software for managing comprehensive cancer clinics, radiotherapy centres and medical oncology practices . Varian is a leading supplier of tubes, digital detectors and image processing workstations for X-ray imaging in medical, scientific and industrial applications.  For more information go to

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