Media Release: Dad-of-two is one of the first in Scotland to benefit from pioneering radiotherapy technique

A DAD-of-two is to become one of the first patients in Scotland to benefit from a pioneering form of precise radiosurgery.

Paul Nearn, 38, is to undergo treatment to repair abnormal blood vessels in his brain, using the groundbreaking new Novalis TxTM radiosurgery system.

Today (Tuesday), Paul met Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Health, as she visited the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh to officially open the machine.

Says a spokesperson: “The Novalis TxTM uses a targeting system to accurately pinpoint cells to be treated with radiation with greater precision, while helping to safeguard the rest of the body from damage.

“This means higher doses of radiation can be given to the targeted area, while keeping the dose to adjacent tissue as low as possible.

“The Western General Hospital is the first in Scotland, and one of only a handful in Europe to benefit from the advanced radiosurgery system.”

Paul Nearn, who lives in Edinburgh with wife Nicola, 36, and children George, 7, and Jessica, 2, will become one of the first patients to benefit from the groundbreaking Novalis TxTM machine when he undergoes treatment for arteriovenous malformation (AVM).

The spokesperson added: “An AVM is an abnormal connection between high pressure arteries and low pressure veins in the brain.

“The abnormal blood vessels can sometimes leak causing a brain haemorrhage, which is a type of stroke.

“Paul is to benefit from the revolutionary new technology because the blood vessels are too deep in his brain to be operated on.

“The damaged blood vessels in his brain mean he is at a higher risk of having a brain haemorrhage.”

The spokesperson continued: “The new system could enable clinicians to treat previously inoperable cancers, and to treat cancer patients with small tumours in most parts of the body, sometimes in just one session.

“It can also be used to treat benign tumours and patients like Paul, who have abnormal blood vessels in the brain.

“Around 600 patients a year from across Scotland are expected to benefit from the new machine.”

Paul, who works as an IT consultant, first suffered a stroke in 2005, which was unrelated to AVM, and he then had a second stroke in October last year, which was diagnosed as AVM.

He then underwent embolisation treatment on Christmas eve last year, where glue is inserted through a tube in a blood vessel to try and block the blood vessels.

However, the treatment was not successful, and Paul is now to undergo radiosurgery on the Novalis TxTM machine.

Focused x-ray radiation beams are used to damage the blood vessels, causing a scar to form and the vessels to block off.

Paul explained: “Being one of the first patients to benefit from this new development is a great honour, and I hope that it will benefit many more patients in years to come.

“There is a higher probability that this new technology will be successful in repairing the blood vessels, and I am grateful to all of the team at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre for giving me the opportunity to benefit from this treatment.”

Dr Sara Erridge, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre, said:

“We are delighted to be the first centre in Scotland to offer radiosurgery using the Novalis TxTM.

“This offers patients in Scotland the chance to have access to the best possible radiotherapy.

“Not only will patients with an AVM like Paul benefit, but many others with small benign and cancerous tumours in the brain will also benefit from the technology.

“Also, over the next year, we will develop a similar treatment for patients with cancers elsewhere in the body, for example patients with small lung cancers.”

Speaking at the launch of the new equipment, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Improving cancer survival rates and cancer treatment and care is a key priority for NHSScotland and the Scottish Government.

“The new equipment we are launching today, funded as part of the national Radiotherapy Capital Equipment Replacement Programme, will enable the Edinburgh Cancer Centre to more effectively target radiation at malignant tumours using state-of-the art imaging.

“This will help clinicians at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre greatly improve cancer treatment for patients from the Lothians and beyond, and support the work we will be undertaking through the Detect Cancer Early Plan to improve cancer survival rates throughout Scotland.”

David Brett, marketing director for Radiotherapy at Brainlab, the radiosurgery pioneers who co-developed the Novalis TxTM with medical device manufacturer, Varian Medical Systems, said: “We continually strive to develop cutting-edge technologies that offer doctors the best treatment possibilities for their patients.

“We are proud to be part of the collaboration between leading oncology and neurosurgery teams and delighted to offer better care to Scottish patients.

“We hope that Scotland’s first Novalis TxTM will help support the provision of improved cancer care to patients in the UK, as Edinburgh is now the third UK centre to launch the machine.”

Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland’s chief executive, David Clark, praised the new equipment.

He said: “AVM carries a high risk of stroke and can be difficult to treat effectively, so it’s very good news that NHS Lothian is now offering this life-saving new radiotherapy treatment. The potential benefits are enormous, for Paul and for other patients right across Scotland.”

The equipment was purchased for over £3 million as part of the Radiotherapy Equipment Replacement programme funded by the Scottish Government.

Notes for editors:

  1. Radiosurgery is a specialised technique where beams of radiation are used to target certain parts of the body, such as a tumour.
  2. Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is an abnormal connection between high pressure arteries and low pressure veins in the brain.
  3. The Western General is the third hospital in the UK to install the Novalis TxTM system.
  4. Edinburgh Cancer Centre:

The Edinburgh Cancer Centre (ECC) provides the following services on site at the Western General Hospital (WGH)

  • Radiotherapy – seven LinAcs treating more than 3,600 patients each year delivering more than 53,000 daily shots – 85 per cent with the aim of curing the cancer
  • Day case chemotherapy treatment unit
  • In patient & out patient oncology
  • In patient & out patient haematology
  • In patient & out patient breast services
  • Palliative care

The increasing incidence of cancer and the ageing population means that more than 5,000 new patients are seen within the cancer centre each year.

5. The Novalis TxTM is manufactured by Varian Medical Systems and Brainlab.


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Contact: Aileen MacArthur
Phone: 0131 465 5646