Improving access to advanced cancer care is more important than ever

Improving access to advanced cancer care is more important than ever

The past year has seen our healthcare systems under unprecedented pressure. Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on cancer care and cancer outcomes across the country. With millions of people on waiting lists and diagnostic pathways struggling to keep up with new cancer cases, it is vital that we invest in advanced cancer treatments and services.

This month saw Rutherford Health introduce its first MR Linac by Elekta to its Rutherford Cancer Centre in Liverpool. It heralds the arrival of advanced cancer care in Liverpool and is a significant step forward in improving cancer care and patient outcomes in the North West. Add to this the arrival of high energy proton beam therapy to the Rutherford Cancer Centre North West later this year, and Liverpool will become a major hub for advanced cancer care in the country.

The MR Linac system has been approved as part of its overall radiotherapy services. The Magnetic Resonance Linear Accelerator (MR Linac) system is a highly advanced single technology which delivers precise radiotherapy and can be particularly effective in treating hard-to-reach tumours.

The centre has already been treating patients with Systemic Anti-Cancer Therapy (SACT) services which include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies symptom control, blood tests, oncology nurse consultation and supportive therapies, as well as diagnostic services.

Having comprehensive cancer services which include conventional and advanced cancer therapies, such as MR Linac and proton beam therapy, is critical to improving cancer outcomes. Late diagnoses and treatment delays due to the effects of the pandemic on cancer services means more people will experience upward stage migrations in their cancers.

These hard to treat cancers will come thick and fast in the months to come. We are already beginning to see it.  In such circumstances, using advanced cancer treatments where they are appropriate is the best way to improve cancer patient outcomes. It also offers patients hope of having a good quality of life thanks to fewer side effects and lower chances of recurring cancers. This can potentially drive down the cancer backlog and lessen the compound pressures that cancer services will endure for the foreseeable future because of the pandemic.

We hope that our network of cancer centres can play a leading role in that effort. The new MR Linac facility in our Liverpool centre is another important step in our pursuit to transform cancer services in the UK.  

Add to this the arrival of high energy proton beam therapy to the Rutherford Cancer Centre North West next year, and Liverpool will become a major hub for advanced cancer care in the country. The damage caused by the pandemic on cancer services means that more patients will experience upward stage migrations in their cancers. In these circumstances, improving access to advanced cancer therapies is critical. We hope that our centres continue to play an important role in transforming cancer care in Britain and overcoming the cancer backlog in months to come.

By Mike Moran, chief executive officer, Rutherford Health.