NPL has played a key role in supporting the UK medical physics community from the beginning of the twentieth century. In more recent times, ground-breaking measurement research has been undertaken to support innovative treatments which require novel approaches to measurement to ensure continued consistency of the dose delivered to the patient.
In 2012, the UK government invested £23 million with the aim of significantly increasing the number of patients benefitting from access to intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), a more advanced and targeted form of treatment. In order for this to be achieved, it was necessary for the treatment to be delivered using a faster and more complex rotational delivery system (RIMRT). As a much more targeted and advanced form of radiotherapy, it was essential to audit delivery systems with differing capabilities across the UK, and assess whether each had been optimised uniformly before implementing the technique. Around two thirds of all UK radiotherapy centres were included, demonstrating an impressive 97% pass rate with a comparative exercise conducted in the USA achieving a 90% pass rate.
NHS England funding has since enabled NPL, in partnership with the national radiotherapy trials group, to play a key role in ensuring the safe and optimised uptake of new radiotherapy techniques such as stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) for non-small cell lung cancer and stereotactic cranial radiosurgery (SRS) – a specialist form of radiotherapy that can be used to treat patients with conditions such as benign and malignant brain tumours. Both of these national audits have highlighted and resolved issues with inconsistencies in implementation that have resulted in significantly reduced variation in the dose delivered to the patient.