Five-year anniversary of revolutionary radiotherapy at The Royal Marsden

The Royal Marsden was the first hospital in the UK to treat a patient with the MR Linac – five years later, it’s now being used around the world.

Many tumour types, including prostate, gynaecological and head and neck cancers, have been treated on the MR Linac, which delivers precise radiotherapy to patients. 

The machine was installed at The Royal Marsden together with the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), funded by a £10 million grant from the Medical Research Council to the ICR and supported by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. 

Headshot of a doctor smiling, wearing a smart blue suit, necklace and neat blonde hair
Dr Alison Tree – Consultant Clinical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden

Speaking on this achievement, Dr Alison Tree – Consultant Clinical Oncologist – said: “The MR Linac has been a huge success and, over the past five years, has allowed us to treat patients in new ways. It’s also been wonderful to see international enthusiasm for this technology, as there are now 85 active MR Linac centres across the world, set to improve patient outcomes globally.” 

Studies looking at differences in treatment delivery – including changes to dose and frequency – are also ongoing to help improve patients' lives and reduce time spent in hospital. 

I’ve worked in The Royal Marsden’s radiotherapy department since 1998 and the most exciting development, in my opinion, is the MR Linac.

Trina Herbert, MR Linac Operational Superintendent at The Royal Marsden

What is the MR Linac? 

MR Linac stands for Magnetic Resonance Linear Accelerator. 

It’s a revolutionary machine that delivers radiotherapy with the guidance of an MRI scanner. It gives detailed imagery of a patient’s body in real time, so that clinicians, radiographers and physicists can locate and visualise tumours easily. The radiotherapy treatment can then be delivered precisely – minimising damage to healthy tissue. The accuracy of the MR Linac also helps reduce side-effects for patients. 

The MR Linac was initially trialled for prostate cancer patients. The machine was beneficial when the shape of the prostate was changing in real time due to movement of the bowel or rectum.

A white medical room with a large white machine in the middle, resembling an MRI with a flat bed and a tunnel
MR Linac machine

Patient perspectives  

To celebrate this five-year milestone, we spoke to Royal Marsden patients who have been treated on the MR Linac. 

Barry Dolling was the first patient to be treated on the MR Linac in the UK through the PRISM trial:

A smiling older man with grey hair and wearing a blue knitted jumper

“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April 2018 and when I was told about the study, I jumped at the chance. I was told the treatment would be more targeted than traditional radiotherapy, which I thought sounded great.” 

“There was lots of publicity surrounding the launch of the machine and I did lots of interviews, including with the BBC. The attention and excitement really helped me through what was a difficult time, and I felt very proud to be supporting research that would help more cancer patients in the future.” 

Sarah Reid was treated on the MR Linac through the PERMIT and MOMENTUM studies: 

A Royal Marsden patient standing in a hospital hallway, wearing a white spotty dress and smiling

“I was first diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2017, and it then returned in 2020. My treatment included traditional radiotherapy, which was done over 28 days. It was very time-consuming and left me exhausted.” 

With the MR Linac, my treatment was over just six sessions lasting around 50 minutes each and I didn’t experience any side effects.” 

It’s thanks to supporters like you that we’re able to fund state-of-the-art equipment like the MR Linac machine. Help us to continue finding new and better ways to treat cancer, donate today.

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