The installation of the UK’s first MR Linac made significant progress at The Royal Marsden and Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) this summer.
Sections of the pioneering state-of-the-art machine, including a four tonne magnet, were carefully lowered through the skylight of the purpose-built bunker at the Sutton site.
The machine is owned and developed by The Royal Marsden and the ICR in collaboration with Elekta. Using a series of test objects and precise measurement devices, the system will be thoroughly tested before being used non-clinically later this year. We are among a select group of international centres allowed to own and develop the pioneering MR Linac technology, thanks to a £10 million grant from the Medical Research Council.
The MR Linac combines two technologies – an MR scanner and linear accelerator – to precisely locate tumours, tailor the shape of X-ray beams in real time and accurately deliver doses of radiation to moving tumours.
The location of tumours and organs within the body changes from day to day or even constantly. For example, a tumour in the lung will move up and down as a person breathes, and a tumour in the prostate might move from day to day depending on what the person has eaten and how full their bowel is. Constant monitoring of the patient during treatment will enable the most precise targeting of the tumour and help avoid healthy tissue. This is key to refining radiotherapy for the future and is what the MR Linac promises.
What makes it different to current treatment?
Patients may have an MRI before starting radiotherapy treatment and radiotherapy itself is carried out on a Linac machine. Combining the two technologies is a major challenge for physicists because the radiation treatment is affected by the strong magnetic fields.