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Radiotherapy for Inoperable Cancers is Now Available In Cornwall

We are delighted to share the news that a leading Cancer Treatment known as Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR) – a type of radiotherapy that can be used to treat medically inoperable cancers – is now being used at the Sunrise Centre at RCHT Treliske, thanks to funds we have raised at the Sunrise Appeal.

SABR is a world-class technique that delivers very precise high-dose radiotherapy to very small tumours with fewer treatment visits. This advanced treatment is not available at every hospital and requires specialist equipment and software to deliver. This is why we approved an investment of over £150,000, raised through charitable donations, to enable this vital treatment to be made available in Cornwall.

Patients in Cornwall previously had to travel out of county to receive SABR, with evidence suggesting that the majority of patients were declining this vital cancer treatment as they were opting not to travel to centres further afield.

In lung cancer treatment, SABR has an equivalent cure rate to major thoracic surgery and now offers a treatment option to those patients who are unable to have surgery for medical reasons. Additionally, because the technique is so precise, the treatment area is smaller, leading to fewer adverse reactions to treatment and the number of sessions needed for SABR treatment is also lower, meaning less disruption for patients and their families and carers. Patients usually attend between 3 and 8 sessions of SABR treatment – significantly less than the 20-33 sessions which are more common in conventional radiotherapy. It’s hoped that in the future this technique will be developed to treat other small-volume cancers.

Colin Micklewright, Treasurer at the Sunrise Appeal, said “This is a fantastic investment in our cancer care in Cornwall. Bringing SABR to the Sunrise Centre will make a huge difference to the treatment options for those suffering from cancer in Cornwall”.

The benefits of having SABR available at the Sunrise Centre are already being felt by patients in Cornwall. Mr Thomas Laity, who lives in Flushing, was diagnosed with a small tumour in his lung which was identified following treatment for a different condition. He received SABR treatment at the Sunrise Centre in three treatment sessions, which took place every other day in February earlier this year and recently had a follow-up consultation in August. Mr Laity said “Having the treatment at the Sunrise Centre in Truro was really helpful – I live in Falmouth, so I am only a 15-minute drive away. I was very pleased not to have had to travel to Plymouth for treatment.”

RCHT Consultant Oncologist and Sunrise Appeal trustee Dr Toby Talbot is delighted with how the treatment is placing Cornwall and the Sunrise Centre at the cutting edge of cancer care in the UK.

He said “This is a fantastic addition to the Sunrise Centre’s facilities. Having been a junior doctor at RCHT while the Sunrise Centre was being launched, I remember how at that time, patients in Cornwall requiring anything other than the most basic of radiotherapy treatments were required to travel to Plymouth. Thanks to the Sunrise Appeal’s work, the Centre now has some of the best radiotherapy equipment in the United Kingdom, and we’re able to deliver extremely advanced and complex treatments like SABR with no need to leave Cornwall.”

Janet Shephard, former head of clinical oncology at RCHT, and trustee at The Sunrise Appeal, said “We are delighted to have approved the grant to purchase the equipment, and fund the development work, which has allowed this technique to be implemented at the Sunrise Centre – and we are so pleased that people living in Cornwall are already benefitting from local access to this world-class treatment.”

Over the past 23 years, we have been focussing our efforts at the Sunrise Appeal towards raising money to fund vital cancer care in Cornwall. To date, we have donated over £2.4m to support buildings and equipment, and granted bursaries to staff working at the Centre totalling over £176,000. Our work ensures that the oncology service at Treliske continues to provide outstanding cancer treatment within Cornwall, and has enabled the Trust to recruit and retain staff of the highest quality.