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Dr Toby Talbot

Dr Toby Talbot, one of the oncologists and a trustee of the Sunrise Appeal summarises just how important the Centre is for cancer sufferer’s the that in Cornwall and emphasises that it is one of the most up to date facilities in the United Kingdom.

I first became aware of the Sunrise Appeal around the time it was launched and at this time I was a junior doctor in training at the Royal Cornwall Hospital. I clearly remember the old oncology department which was housed in the basement of the tower block of the hospital – conditions were cramped, dark and oppressive. The radiotherapy equipment was ageing and could only be used for non-complex treatments and patients requiring anything other than the most basic of radiotherapy treatments were required to travel to Plymouth. Construction on the Sunrise Centre began not long after I moved to Cornwall and I was able to watch it develop from a building site and into the impressive building we now see. Upon opening in 2002, the centre was equipped with two, matched linear accelerators – high energy radiotherapy machines – which meant that for the first time, patients no longer needed to take the journey to Plymouth for treatment. Additionally, the clinic spaces were bright, spacious and about as far removed from the old basement as could be imagined.

During my period of training, the technological advances in radiotherapy were breath-taking and by the time I took up my new consultant post back here in Truro, the original two linear accelerators were approaching the end of their life and it became clear that new machines would be required. I was fortunate to be able to approach the Sunrise Appeal and with a large capital grant of £700k from the Appeal, we were able to install one of the most technologically advanced radiotherapy machines in the world – the TrueBeam linear accelerator – this was one of the very first machine to be installed and clinically active anywhere in Europe. A second, matched TrueBeam was installed the following year meaning that we now have some of the best radiotherapy equipment in the United Kingdom and are able to deliver extremely complex treatments with no need to leave Cornwall. Additional developments included the installation of multi-directional treatment couches – 6 degree of freedom couches – which allow exquisite fine tuning of patient position during radiotherapy treatment and increasing the accuracy of radiotherapy hugely. This was made possible by a £500k fund from the Sunrise Appeal.

In addition to the major investments in high technology radiotherapy equipment, the Sunrise Appeal has funded the installation of new diagnostic equipment to dramatically shorten the time it takes to get complex but vital analysis of cancer samples – the Idylla Diagnostics system allows a turnaround time in analysing melanoma tumours for a genetic mutation which has major implications to as little as 90 minutes – the quickest lab elsewhere in the UK quotes around 7 days for a result and even major cancer centres can experience waits of up to three weeks for this result. This has transformed how patients with this dangerous skin cancer are treated and greatly reduces the time it takes to start treatment. Further upgrades for this machine are imminent and will mean faster diagnoses for patients with lung, bowel and many other cancers.

There is no doubt that we now have one of the best cancer centres in the United Kingdom and it is a privilege to work here.

It is thanks to the ongoing Sunrise Appeal that this has been possible – ultimately this is down to the people who have contributed financially to the appeal over the years and to them I would like to say thank you – we have a cancer centre in Cornwall for which we can all be proud.