By Lucy Ashton
Thousands of cancer patients across the West of Scotland are set to benefit from a new £3.6 million MRI scanner, officially unveiled this week at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow.
The new MRI suite, which started scanning patients last month, was unveiled by Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Humza Yousaf MSP, following a successful fundraising partnership with Beatson Cancer Charity and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
NHSGGC pledged a grant of £1.7m from the Board’s Endowment Fund towards the project, which represented 50% of the anticipated original costs.
Fundraising by Beatson Cancer Charity for the remaining balance began in May 2019 and sufficient funds were raised from individuals and charitable trusts by October 2019 to begin the procurement process. While delivery of the project was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, building costs increased and additional accessories were identified that could extend the capabilities of the scanner.
“As a result, the charity launched a public appeal which raised a further £200,000 from 2,000 individual donors. In all, the charity raised an amazing £1.9 million for the initiative.
One of the first donors to the appeal was patient, David Bartlett who was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April 2018 and treated at the Beatson.
David was one of only a few people in Scotland to benefit from the technique when doctors were able to use a diagnostic MRI scanner for radiotherapy planning.
David said: “It saved me – I’m still here four years since my diagnosis. The professionalism of everybody is amazing.
“The diagnosis wasn’t very good, but the treatment was amazing. Everybody was so friendly.”
Dr David Dodds, Chief of Medicine, Regional Services at NHSGGC, said: “This development will be transformative for an estimated 20,000 patients who need treatment across a number of tumour groups over the next ten years. Many will experience a more complete recovery from cancer and reduced side effects, enabling enhanced wellbeing post-treatment. In particular, those whose cancer is more aggressive or advanced may experience increased longevity and a better quality of life.”
The higher definition of MR imaging provided by the scanner, creates more accurate targeting of certain tumour types than existing CT technology. This allows clinicians to fully exploit the capabilities of the latest generation of radiotherapy machines to sculpt the radiation beam with an unprecedented level of precision around the shape of the tumour.
Dr Dodds added: “This makes it possible to focus radiotherapy more precisely, where it will have the greatest effect, whilst avoiding adjacent, healthy tissue.”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, pictured left, said: “This capability will augment NHS Scotland as a leader in modern radiotherapy. It will provide a platform for clinicians to develop and incubate innovative approaches and will also be used to support crucial research activity, with 20% of the MRI’s capacity being dedicated to research and development.”
Martin Cawley, Chief Executive of Beatson Cancer Charity, said: “I am delighted to see the official opening of the MRI scanner in the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre.
“We are in awe of the generosity of our donors who shared the Beatson’s vision for precision radiotherapy and supported the appeal giving £3.6 million.
“This means patients can receive personalised, precision radiotherapy that will be more effective and cause fewer side effects. We estimate that over the next 10 years, around 20,000 people will benefit from the technique.
“We are delighted to hand over the new MRI facility to the NHS so they can do what they do best – giving people the chance to live well with and beyond cancer.”
Jane Grant, Chief Executive of NHSGGC, pictured right, added: “This incredibly important development would not have been possible without many substantial donations. The commitment of Beatson Cancer Charity and generosity of the donors has been overwhelming. On behalf of NHSGGC, I would like to express our utmost thanks for this incredible support.
“Undoubtedly this new facility provides an exciting opportunity to further develop clinical services at the Beatson and will provide significant treatment benefits and better patient outcomes for our population in the years to come.”