Over 500 treated at North West Cancer Centre

Staff at the North West Cancer Centre at the Altnagelvin site.
Staff at the North West Cancer Centre at the Altnagelvin site.

Over 500 cancer patients from both sides of the border have been treated at the North West Cancer Centre during its first year of operation, the ‘Journal’ has learned.

The vast majority of patients from Derry, Donegal, Limavady, Strabane and further afield who have received treatment - 95 per cent - were outpatients who returned home following their treatment at the Altnagelvin facility.

The £66m centre opened in November, 2016, with an international team of experts at the helm and some of the most advanced technology for treating cancers available anywhere in the world. Local men with Prostate Cancer were the first to receive radiotherapy there, followed by Breast Cancer patients in March, 2017.

A spokesperson for the Western Trust yesterday confirmed that this has now developed to include people with a range of different cancers. “Treatments are now being delivered across a range of tumour sites to include prostate, breast, lung, bowel and bladder,” she said.

“A number of palliate treatments are also being delivered and plans are well under way for the introduction of further [cancer] sites.”  

The new North West Cancer Centre facility marked one year of treating radiotherapy patients on November 30, 2017, with over 200 staff now based at the facility. The Trust has also confirmed: “Recruitment processes are nearing completion for the staff associated with the North West Cancer Centre, with the vast majority of staff now in post.”

“Overall the service, whilst still evolving is progressing very well. Patient feedback to date has been very positive and it is evident that patients truly value the opportunity for local access to high quality cancer care.” The Radiotherapy Department in Derry became the first in the UK and Ireland and fourth in the world to install Varian’s Truebeam (2.7) on its treatment machines in August 27. This has resulted in enhanced quality of imaging during treatment, which is also quicker and more comfortable for patients. The North West Cancer Centre was secured following a major cross-border campaign led by cancer survivors and local health professionals, politicians and communities.

The North West Cancer Centre in Derry is using some of the world’s most advanced equipment to treat patients, with further advancements planned in the coming months.

Commenting on some of the developments, the Western Trust spokesperson said: “The North West Cancer Centre focuses on ensuring a multidisciplinary approach to the delivery of cancer services, the multi-disciplinary team has worked closely with Medical Imaging colleagues to incorporate MRI into treatment planning.

“This has begun firstly with Prostate Cancer patients with plans to extend across the relevant tumour sites in the future. This approach ensures that the team has the best possible images/pictures of tumours prior to treatment delivery.

“The centre prides itself on the use of high spec/advanced equipment. Recently the centre has begun treating lung cancer patients with 4D Cone Beam CT during treatment. This technology allows the team to track tumours as they move during treatment and ensure that radiotherapy doesn’t miss the target. 

“The centre also has some of the most advanced immobilization equipment available that can deliver the high precision radiotherapy required to target tumours and assist in the reduction of treatment related issues. Breast Cancer, Thoracic Cancers and Pelvic Cancers have all benefited so far from this.”

The percentage of patients who receive the most advanced forms of radiotherapy, Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), is higher locally than targets set in previous years by the NHS, the Trust has confirmed.

“All radical patients have received IMRT and a proportion of non-radical patients have also benefited from IMRT,” the spokesperson said, adding: “In addition to radiotherapy developments, the Centre is also delivering advanced chemotherapy treatments.

“The Sperrin Suite which provides day care treatment for oncology and haematology patients has also treated patients with the newest forms of targeted anti-cancer therapies, including immunotherapy.

“These therapies can be more effective and have less associated toxicities than some standard forms of chemotherapy.”

She added: “The team is highly committed to the continued development of the services within the North West Cancer Centre and to the continuous work associated with ensuring a positive patient experience across the patient journey.”