Staff at Leeds Cancer Centre recently celebrated the official opening of a new MRI Simulator which will revolutionise radiotherapy treatment at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

In 2017, Leeds Hospitals Charity launched a £2.4 million pounds ‘MR Sim’ fundraising appeal to purchase the state-of-the-art machine. Thanks to the generosity of the people of Leeds, and significant contributions from Sovereign Health Care, the Wilby family, Caravan Guard, the Cavill family and the Scarcliffe family, the target was met in 2019.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, installation of the machine was delayed until late 2022 and it first opened to patients in April 2023.

The radiotherapy department at Leeds Cancer Centre is one of a handful of radiotherapy departments in England to offer this cutting-edge imaging technology to benefit patients. The high-definition, high-contrast images produced by the MR Sim will enable patients to receive more precise, targeted treatments whilst reducing the risk of treatment related side-effects.

Last year, the radiotherapy department, one of the largest in Europe, delivered 80,000 treatments to almost 7,000 patients from across Yorkshire. This new technology has the potential to benefit patients with a wide range of cancers, including the head-and-neck, pelvis, and brain.

Read More: New exhibition from Leeds Hospitals Charity highlights cancer care in Leeds

In March 2023, 47-year-old Joanna Williams from Temple Newsam was diagnosed with a brain tumour called a high grade glioma, and was among the first patients to benefit from treatment using this new equipment.

“I am about to start chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for my brain tumour. I recently came to the radiotherapy department at Leeds Cancer Centre to have my radiotherapy mask mould and underwent an MRI scan using the new charity-funded machine. The team told me about this new technology and how this will improve treatment and outcomes for thousands of patients who are treated in Leeds every year.”

“I’m so grateful to everyone who has donated to help cancer patients like me. The whole experience was less daunting than my previous scans as the machine told me how long each scanning process would take. This which helped reassure me that the scan would be finished soon and made me feel calmer and more comfortable.”#

Radiotherapy Staff, Chief Nurse, Suppliers and Charity at ribbon cutting event

David Sebag-Montefiore, Professor of Clinical Oncology at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Leeds, and Director of the Leeds Cancer Research Centre and the CRUK RadNet Centre of Excellence in Leeds, told us about the difference this will make:

“For decades we have been limited to using CT scans to see the tumour and plan radiotherapy for our patients. Through ground-breaking research performed here in Leeds and other research centres across the world we are now able to use MRI scans to provide more targeted treatment.

“The Leeds radiotherapy team worked closely with Leeds Hospitals Charity, and world-leading industry partners to realise this project which will be transformational, allowing us to more precisely target tumours. As well as benefiting patients treated today, the MR Sim provides the opportunity for patients to participate in radiotherapy research that will help us make progress quicker and find new ways to develop “smarter, kinder” radiotherapy treatments.

“We are so grateful to Leeds Hospitals Charity and all of the donors for their amazing support - this would not have happened without it.”  

Watch here: Esther Wakeman Video Blog Episode 1: David Sebag-Montefiore

Helen Christodoulides, Chief Nurse at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

 “The installation of the MRI Sim machine will transform the way radiotherapy treatment is delivered to cancer patients. This will also enable the team here to significantly improve radiotherapy treatment planning and ensure as much of the tumour area is targeted without irradiating surrounding areas.

“It will reduce the short-term and long-term side effects for patients. It sits perfectly alongside the equally important emotional, physical, and psychological support we can give to our patients and their families.”

Esther Wakeman, CEO of Leeds Hospitals Charity is delighted that the new scanner is now benefiting cancer patients in Leeds:

“As the charity for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, we are committed to funding the best cutting-edge equipment to improve outcomes for patients. The new MR Simulator is already making a huge difference to patients undergoing radiotherapy every week by providing more targeted treatment.

“I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to all of our donors who contributed to this appeal, it’s thanks to your support that we’re able to help Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust provide patients with the best possible care and support.”

 Major Donors attend a presentation about the MR Simulator

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