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Cancer Equipment Upgrade to Benefit Patients and Research

A specialist x-ray machine used by Northampton General Hospital for the treatment of skin cancer has been upgraded thank to collaboration with the Open University.

by Northampton General Hospital
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The hospital’s Gulmay x-ray machine has received new components and a service upgrade, funded in part by the Open University which uses the machine for vital cancer research.

Dr Craig Knighton, consultant clinical oncologist at Northampton General Hospital, said: “The Gulmay machine uses superficial x-ray targeting so it’s ideal for treating a range of cancers affecting the skin or the delicate areas of the face, head and neck. Towards the end of last year, it became apparent that the machine not only needed a new x-ray tube but a complete upgrade. 

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“The OU stepped in with an offer of part-funding in recognition of the machine’s importance for their research into the use of gold particles in x-ray treatment. We’re very grateful for their financial contribution which not only helps to ensure their research can continue but ensures we continue to have a range of treatment options for patients appropriate to their needs.”

Jon Golding, senior lecturer at The Open University, said: “This equipment is one of the best in the country for our research. What we’re trying to do with this technology is use very tiny gold particles that get selectively into the cancer cells which in the presence of radiation destroys the cancer tissue. That allows us to treat the cancer cells specifically and spare the surrounding tissue. It also allows us to potentially use much lower doses of radiation to do the same job.

“What we don’t want to do with our cell cultures is keep them out of the incubator for very long and with this machine in Northampton and us based in Milton Keynes we can get all the radiotherapy done within an hour. Without Northampton General Hospital and without the use of this equipment, we couldn’t do this research so we’re very grateful for the collaboration we’ve got.”

Dr Knighton added: “Unlike the more conventional linear accelerator machines, which penetrate more deeply into the body, the Gulmay treatment treats cells on or just below the skin surface. 

“It’s also very helpful when we treat patients with restricted mobility because we can treat them in a seated positon; we can’t do that with the more powerful machines which require patients to be lying down.” 

The hospital uses the Gulmay machine to treat 150 patients each year.  The total cost of the replacement components combined with the upgrade was £42,000.

The Gulmay machine is particularly effective for the treatment of:

  • basal cell carcinoma – a form of cancer which starts in the cells lining the bottom of the epidermis and accounts for about 75 per cent of skin cancers
  • Keloid scars, an overgrowth of tissue that occurs after surgery or major skin trauma, even after the wound has healed.
  • It is also used to limit the inflammation of tissue after surgery and to reduce the risk of infection of surgical drain sites.

Watch a video where consultant clinical oncologist Dr Craig Knighton and Jon Golding, senior lecturer at The Open University, talk about the importance of the machine.