GRACE Funds Probes to Treat Cervical Cancer

Two people holding hands

GRACE is delighted to provide funding of £17,000 to purchase a new probe for the Hitachi Ultrasound Machine, which GRACE also funded. This will allow the Alex Stewart, Adrian Franklin and their team treating gynaeoncological cancers in St. Luke’s Cancer Centre to perform complex brachytherapy insertions to treat advanced cancers.

At St Luke’s our Clincal Oncologists perform specialist radiotherapy called brachytherapy for gynaecological cancers. Whereas external beam radiotherapy uses x-rays to treat the pelvis, brachytherapy uses a small radioactive source at the end of a wire that travels up and down guide tubes that are inserted through the vagina into the cervix.

They also use interstitial needles that can be placed in the cancer itself to enable a boost to the dose given to try and cure the cancer, or improve symptoms in palliative situations. To allow these needles to be placed safely, the ultrasound machine is used to ensure that the needles are positioned in the tumour, and miss the bladder, rectum and other vulnerable areas. Not all centres use these needles, and soon the team will also be using the new applicator that will allowing larger tumours to be treated.

The ultrasound machine in use was funded by GRACE and is one of the top models with the software packages to perform elastography, doppler and complex assessments, but when using the needles it would be helpful to insert a bi-planar probe into the rectum (the patient is asleep!) that would allow the needles to be placed safely and accurately. This would mean we can treat advanced cancers that currently would be very difficult to treat conventionally.

For example, there is one patient who sadly has had a recurrence of her cancer lower down the vagina that is not amenable to surgery. She has already had brachytherapy further up the vagina, but we have the ablility to use our needles to treat the recurrence safely, and at a dose that would hopefully stop it recurring. This means the lady should not have any bleeding or pain from her cancer, and we hope she would be able to continue to maintain her quality of life.

The team enjoys a high reputation amongst its peers and can offer advanced techniques that are not available at other centres.They know that this probe could have been used in some patients with advanced cancer and they look forward to treating more advanced cancers in the future using this imaging technique.