'Cyberknife' to treat cancer in UK

Paul Bignell
Sunday 08 February 2009 01:00 GMT

A robotic radiotherapy machine that treats cancer is to be used in the UK for the first time this week.

The £2.5m Cyberknife maps the movement of a patient's breathing so that tumours can be targeted with greater accuracy than is currently possible. It works by delivering multiple beams of high-dose radiation from a wide variety of angles using a robotic arm. X-ray cameras monitor the patient's breathing and the radiotherapy beam is then repositioned in order to minimise damage to surrounding tissues. The accuracy enables treatment for tumours that are in difficult positions and are dangerous to operate on, such as near the spinal chord.

Ten people are lined up for treatment in the Harley Street Clinic in London, at a cost per patient of £15,000 to £20,000. Dr Nick Plowman, a consultant oncologist at St Bartholomew's hospital, who will oversee the treatment, said: "If you get a discreet little tumour in an awkward place, under the liver or next to the kidney, then there's really nothing better than the Cyberknife."

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