NHS is set to treat hundreds of cancer patients with an innovative type of radiotherapy

The first centres to treat patients with stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), as part of NHS England’s latest national evaluation programme, will be able to start accepting patients from today (Monday).

NHS England has invested £15m over three years to assess the use of SABR through its Commissioning through Evaluation initiative, which will allow up to 750 new patients a year to access the treatment at 17 centres across the country.

SABR is a modern, more precise delivery technique of radiotherapy which delivers high doses of radiation while causing less damage to surrounding healthy tissue than conventional radiotherapy.

Evidence shows that SABR can be effective when used to treat non-small cell lung cancer and the NHS already funds this. However, there is less clinical evidence to show that SABR is effective for other cancers.

To gather the evidence it needs, NHS England is working with the clinical and research community to fully assess the use of SABR to treat a range of cancer indications. This follows a campaign led by former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio, which aims to make SABR more widely available to patients.

NHS England’s Commissioning through Evaluation programme will increase the number of cancers being treated to include oligometastatic disease (cancer that has spread to another part of the body), primary liver tumours and the re-irradiation of cancers in the pelvis and spine. Its clinical panel is also considering including benign spinal tumours and renal conditions as part of the scheme in the future.

A number of centres are ready to treat patients with some conditions straight away, and the programme will be fully rolled-out for all eligible patients in the coming months.

Sean Duffy, National Clinical Director for Cancer at NHS England, said: “This is a great day for hundreds of cancer patients who will now be able to access this cutting-edge innovative treatment up and down the country.  This programme will allow us to assess this promising type of radiotherapy while enabling people who may benefit to access it as close to home as possible.”

Lawrence Dallaglio said: “I am delighted to see that hundreds of new cancer patients will start their treatment with SABR in the coming months. Our task now is to ensure the success of this evaluation programme so that all those patients who should also be receiving this innovative radiotherapy are treated as soon as possible.”

A patient’s clinician will identify whether they are a potential candidate for the programme and they will be referred on to a participating centre where appropriate.

NHS England’s investment in the Commissioning through Evaluation programme is in addition to its pledge to fund up to £6m over the next five years to cover the NHS treatment costs of SABR clinical trials funded by Cancer Research UK.