National Physical Laboratory

NPL helps bring revolutionary cancer treatment to the UK

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have made measurements of the UK's first portable intraoperative radiotherapy machine, a device used to deliver targeted radiation during operations. The measurements precisely defined the properties and performance of the machine, allowing its operators to deliver high doses of radiation with a high degree of accuracy. University Hospital Southampton will begin trialling the machine for cancer treatment.

High-dose, high-accuracy targeting of tumours

Radiotherapy is used to destroy cancerous cells and shrink tumours. But the dose of radiotherapy used is often reduced to avoid harming surrounding healthy tissues, as the radiation is delivered externally into the body.

A new device, and the first of its kind in the UK, overcomes this problem by targeting cancerous cells during open-wound operations (intraoperative radiotherapy), allowing high doses of radiation to be delivered to precise areas. The device, called the 'Mobetron' (Mobile Electron Accelerator), is less than one-eighth the size of a traditional external beam machine, allowing it to be used during surgery and easily moved between theatres.

The Mobetron on display in an operating theatre

The Mobetron on display in an operating theatre

The Mobetron will be used to treat tissue around tumours as they are surgically removed, reducing the chances of recurrence.

NPL's provides measurement expertise

To guarantee the Mobetron could be used with the desired degree of precision, accurate measurements needed to be made of the device's properties and performance.

In recognition of NPL's measurement expertise, NPL's Radiation Dosimetry Group was commissioned to make these measurements, including the assessment of different electron applicators, which are components used to target the beams of electron radiation. 45 different applicators were assessed and can now be used, each suitable for different angles of surgical incision and different size tumours.

Rebecca Nutbrown, NPL's Radiation Dosimetry Group Leader, commented:

"Our role, working with medical device manufacturers, like Mobetron, and the NHS, is key to ensuring that the most cutting-edge technology is available for the treatment of cancer in the UK."

The Mobetron will now be used from June 2016 onwards at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

NPL's contribution to this revolutionary cancer-fighting machine has been recognised nationally, including by the NHS, MailOnline and the Huffington Post

Find out more about NPL's Radiation Dosimetry research

For more information, contact Rebecca Nutbrown

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Last Updated: 20 Jun 2016
Created: 20 Jun 2016

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