New hope for Helen 

16/12/2011 00:00 

A groundbreaking form of radiotherapy which offers pinpoint precision to target tumours is offering new hope to patients at UCLH.


Helen Lau with son Mylo (picture courtesy of David Poole)

Cancer patients at University College Hospital (UCH) are the first in the country to benefit from the TrueBeam linear accelerator which delivers precise radiotherapy and radiosurgery alongside real-time imaging. It is particularly effective for lung, liver, pancreas and other mobile tumours.

The acquisition is the result of a partnership between HCA International and UCLH, which has seen private investment make the latest technology available to NHS patients. HCA provided the £3 million machine with major financial support from the children’s cancer charity Fight for Life.

One of the first patients to use TrueBeam is Helen Lau. The past two years have been a rollercoaster ride for her. Within five weeks of complaining of blurred vision, Helen found herself undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumour the size of a pea. In the space of those five weeks, she also learnt she was pregnant and had to deal with going completely blind.

“Those five weeks were so scary, not knowing what was happening, why it was happening. Diagnosis was a relief. The medical team did not give me false hope, they did not promise I would get my sight back after surgery but I did. It was instant.”

While waiting for her diagnosis of a craniopharyngioma (a benign tumor that develops near the pituitary gland), “all I could think about were all the things I was going to miss, and how I wouldn’t get to see my baby grow up”.

Helen’s tumour was removed and she went on to give birth to her son, Mylo, in May 2010. But a few months later, her tumour was back. “This time around, I knew the signs and I went to the doctor straight away. The tumour had grown back really quickly and was the size of a Brussels sprout.”

Helen Lau receiving her TrueBeam radiotherapy

A second round of surgery for Helen, 40, was followed by a course of radiotherapy treatment last month to ensure her tumour does not grow back. The start of her treatment coincided with the arrival of the world’s most advanced linear accelerator, the TrueBeam STx, to UCH.

The TrueBeam™ platform for image-guided radiotherapy and radiosurgery was introduced by Varian Medical Systems last year as the first fully-integrated radiotherapy system designed from the ground up to treat a moving target with speed and precision.

Julia Solano, radiotherapy services manager, said: ‘I’d call it the Rolls-Royce of cancer treatments, but that sounds old-fashioned. It’s more like a Ferrari or an Aston Martin: beautifully made and with great speed and technical ability. It will be good for treating children as well because it’s so quick and so accurate.’

Sarah Fisher, chief executive officer of HCA’s NHS Ventures Division, said the company was continually reviewing the advancing technologies available to offer the best treatments to patients. “Our significant investment in this very latest technology benefits both NHS and private patients which has been possible because of the dedication and vision of our partners at UCH.

“With the range of diagnostic and treatments technology we have across our group, HCA now has the most advanced range of cancer treatment systems in Europe and we are delighted to be working so closely with UCH to bring the many benefits of TrueBeam STx for all patients,” she said.


 Latest news

 Contact details

Communications unit
2nd floor central
250 Euston Road
London NW1 2PG

Media enquiries

Switchboard: 020 3456 7890
Media enquiries: 020 3447 7542 / 020 3447 9506

Out of hours
The normal working hours for the Communications Unit are Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. The only media enquiries that will be answered outside of these working hours are urgent enquiries and those relating to major incidents. To access the out-of-hours service call switchboard on 0845 155 5000.

Share this story