New cancer radiotherapy gives fresh hope to mum

Mother of four Rachel Aldridge who has liver cancer is looking forward to a new radiotherapy treatment which she hopes will help prolong her life.    Picture: OX63649 Ric Mellis

Mother of four Rachel Aldridge who has liver cancer is looking forward to a new radiotherapy treatment which she hopes will help prolong her life. Picture: OX63649 Ric Mellis Buy this photo

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by

A CANCER patient hopes a new form of radiotherapy could prolong her life with her four children.

Rachel Aldridge, 45, was diagnosed with bowel cancer – the UK’s second biggest cancer killer – in April last year and it has since spread to the liver.

She has undergone two lots of chemotherapy and radiotherapy on her colon, but hopes a form of radiotherapy, which specifically targets the liver, could prolong her life. She is booked in for an appointment at the Churchill Hospital on Thursday.

The treatment, called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT), was made available on a two-year trial at 10 hospitals around the country, including the Churchill, on Wednesday. Ms Aldridge, who is divorced and has four children, Bribie , 21, Chloe, 20, James, 17, and Oliver, 16, has been told her cancer is incurable.

She said: “I feel so lucky that researchers out there have created this treatment for cancer.

“It’s amazing to think it could prolong my life with my four children.

“My children worry constantly because they know the implications of the disease.”

Ms Aldridge, who works as a training co-ordinator at Abingdon and Witney College and lives in Bowgrave Copse, Abingdon, added: “I had radiotherapy for five weeks in December 2012 on my colon and that was the most effective treatment I have had so far.

“Hopefully there is a good chance the radiotherapy on my liver will work.”

SIRT is the first to be offered on a new system, called Commissioning Through Evaluation, which trials treatments to prove their effectiveness on patients. It could see SIRT become available on the NHS.

The treatment, which will be given to patients with liver cancer that has spread from the bowel and bile duct cancer, is one-off and involves injecting millions of tiny radioactive beads into the artery that supplies the cancer, directly into the site of the disease.

Dr Ricky Sharma, consultant oncologist at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “It’s a very specialist form of treatment.

“It is an innovative treatment for liver metastases – the spread of cancer from other parts of the body to the liver – that we have not been able to target with radiotherapy before now.”

He said he expected to treat at least 40 patients a year with SIRT as part of the trial.

SIRT had previously been available on the NHS through the Cancer Drugs Fund, but the Government removed it from the fund in April meaning it has only been available privately – costing patients about £8,000.

Eynsham resident Clive Stone, who has fought to get cancer drugs on the NHS, said: “It is terrific and it will help a lot of cancer patients.

“What we are looking for is SIRT to be used for cancers that are elsewhere.”

The treatment will be available to patients, by referral from their specialist consultants, who have unsuccessfully tried routine approaches, including surgery.

BOWEL CANCER

  • IN the UK, bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer and the fourth most common cancer.
  • In 2010, 40,695 people in the UK were diagnosed with bowel cancer.
  • Cancer of the bowel can spread to other parts of the body but typically spreads to the liver first.
  • About a quarter of people who are diagnosed with bowel cancer will already have cancer that has spread to the liver.
  • A further 25 to 30 per cent of patients will go onto develop liver cancer.
  • Patients can receive surgery and chemotherapy for the cancer but, once these are exhausted, there were – until now – no other options.

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