Feb 24, 2019
Why radiotherapy with a needle could beat cervical cancer
In cervical cancer, ‘intracavitary’ brachytherapy is normally used. Three plastic tubes called applicators are placed in the cervix via the vagina. The applicators are then connected to the radiotherapy machine. But in the 50 per cent or so of patients in which the cancer has spread — as in Karen’s case — applicators are not as effective. This is where ‘interstitial’ brachytherapy comes in, with hollow needles up to one foot long inserted into the tissue where the cancer has spread. We are one of 27 centres around the world participating in the EMBRACE-II trial, which is looking at how effective this combination of external radiotherapy and brachytherapy is. Interestingly, data already shows a 10 per cent higher chance of a cure for patients treated in centres with access to interstitial needles. Brachytherapy is also very successful treating prostate cancer in men, when combined with external radiotherapy. We have put in a bid with NHS England to do that here, too.