Leeds scientists lead next generation of radiotherapy treatments

Leeds scientists and clinicians have been awarded a major cash boost from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) to pioneer new radiotherapy technologies that could help more people in Yorkshire survive cancer.

Professor David Sebag-Montefiore, who will lead the new Leeds radiotherapy centre of excellence, pictured in one of the radiotherapy suites at St James’s University Hospital, which will be involved in the research

Led by Professor David Sebag-Montefiore, experts from the University and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust are poised to receive £3.5 million during the next five years to fund advances in radiotherapy research, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) with imaging technology.

Leeds has been chosen to be one of just seven Centres of Excellence in a UK-wide network, RadNet, which will accelerate advances in radiotherapy research. Other centres will be located in Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford, Glasgow and London.

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor at Leeds, said: “Achieving the status of a Cancer Research UK Centre of Excellence is important recognition of our overall commitment to excellence in cancer care and the science which underpins it, in particular the outstanding quality and impact of radiotherapy research in Leeds.

“Improving cancer outcomes is at the heart of our research strategy and radiotherapy plays a crucially important role in increasing survival rates for a broad range of cancers.”

New funding will help provide precise, personalised treatment for cancer patients 

Precise, personalised treatment

Radiotherapy is a precise treatment given to patients on a daily basis. In its simplest form, it uses high energy X-ray radiation beams to selectively kill cancer cells by irreversibly damaging their DNA, while minimising the effect on the surrounding normal tissues.

Research at the Leeds Centre of Excellence will combine the use of AI, magnetic resonance imaging and new drugs with radiotherapy, focussing on patients with anal, rectal, prostate, liver and brain cancers.

Professor Sebag-Montefiore, from the School of Medicine, said: “We are very proud that Leeds has been awarded this grant to bring the next generation of radiotherapy treatments to patients sooner, helping to save the lives of more people with cancer in Yorkshire.

“Using artificial intelligence analysis of the MRI scans will help us to tailor future treatment for patients and reduce side effects, resulting in new, precise and personalised treatments – and a better quality of life afterwards – in the next five to 10 years.

“Working with other colleagues in imaging, computing and AI disciplines, and combining research excellence across different areas of science, will allow us to deliver this in the quickest timeframe.

“This funding from Cancer Research UK will help us accelerate our development of new and advanced radiotherapy techniques, leading to the best treatment approaches for patients across a broad range of cancers, challenging the boundaries of this mainstay treatment through world-first exploratory projects and taking our research in Leeds to an internationally-leading level.

“It will also fund 13 new researcher posts and strengthen Leeds’s position as an excellent destination to train the next generation of researchers.”

The RadNet research team from the University and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust 

Interdisciplinary research 

The Leeds centre brings together an interdisciplinary team of researchers across faculties and multiple disciplines, including the University's School of Medicine, Leeds Institute of Medical Research, Leeds Institute of Clinical Trials and the School of Computing. They will work with clinicians, image and data analytics experts and the radiotherapy research group at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

This funding substantially grows the core Cancer Research UK infrastructure investment in Leeds, following the award of core funding for the Leeds Clinical Trials Unit in 2018.

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