Author: Jackie Vandinther, Digital Content Editor
In the last three years, David Hutson has beaten both throat and skin cancer. Now he’s hoping a new form of radiation treatment will help him overcome the prostate cancer he was diagnosed with last September. Hutson is the first patient in the world to experiment with a new cancer-killing technology called MR-Linac.
“I feel very lucky indeed that I’m having this treatment. I feel very confident in this technology,” he says from the Christie Hospital Manchester in the United Kingdom.
“And from my diagnosis, it’s going to help me to defeat this third bout of cancer.”
Normally, radiotherapy is carried out in two stages. First, a scan of the tumour is made. Then a dose of radiation is delivered.
Part MRI scanner and part radiation machine, the MR-Linac allows doctors to do both tasks at once; they can visualize the tumour in real time while beaming high-energy radiation to the area. The result is on-the-spot imaging and targeted treatment in one shot.
Because doctors can give more precise and intense doses of radiation, the groundbreaking technology could treat cancers with unprecedented safety and efficiency. MR-Linac could also be an effective treatment for forms of cancer that move, or that are normally impossible to treat with radiation because of their proximity to vital organs, like the pancreas or liver.
Ananya Choudhury, a clinical oncology consultant at Christie Hospital Manchester, believes the new cancer-fighting technology has huge potential.
“If we can do that, then we can not only treat the patients with radiotherapy, but we can increase the dose to try and increase the cure rate,” he says.
Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital currently houses the only MR-Linac machine in Canada. Sunnybrook is also a founding member of an international consortium of doctors and experts leading the charge in developing this state-of-the-art device. Other members include medical centres in the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands.
In March 2019, Health Canada approved a medical device license for the MR-Linac, a move that clears the machine to be sold commercially and used for research in Canada.