Patients across Cornwall are now receiving Surface Guided Radiotherapy (SGRT) at the Sunrise Centre in Truro.

The innovative new system, which helps deliver cutting-edge cancer treatment, was installed earlier this year and funded to the tune of £502,000 by the Sunrise Appeal. SGRT enables enhanced setup and treatment accuracy across a range of treatment sites, including breast, lung and pelvis.

The new treatment method uses a system of cameras and lights which allow the radiographers to position patients with enhanced accuracy for their radiotherapy treatment.  The camera projects light onto the patient’s skin to compare their position to an effective pre-planned position. This then creates coordinates that the radiographers use to adjust specialist ‘six degrees of freedom’ couch tops (also funded by the Sunrise Appeal with a grant of £460,000) to move the patient to the right position for treatment. The SGRT system also monitors the patient’s position while the radiotherapy is being delivered, automatically shutting off if movement is detected - which makes the treatment much safer for patients than the current CCTV monitoring. The Sunrise Centre has become the first radiotherapy department in the South West to use this SGRT system clinically. Operational lead in radiotherapy Zoe Rowett said: “The difference really is a substantial step up for the care we can offer, as SGRT can apply treatment to sub-millimetre accuracy.”

Traditionally, patients have to be permanently tattooed with three or four tracking points to receive this kind of treatment, whereas SGRT uses a minimum of 10,000 purely digital tracking points. “Over the years, we’ve received post-treatment feedback from patients that their tattoos are an unfortunate physical reminder of the cancer journey they have been through,” Zoe said.

“Without the funding from the Sunrise Appeal we would not have been able to offer this service in Cornwall, and its continued support will enable radiotherapy in Cornwall to continue to be at the forefront of future advancements.”

The Sunrise Centre has been using the SGRT clinically since July 2023, and as of November certain groups of patients have begun tattoo-less treatment. Soon, the aim is that all patients receiving radiotherapy will not require permanent tattoos. The Sunrise Appeal is a fully independent and registered charity which relies on public donations to give the people of Cornwall the most up-to-date cancer care and treatment available in the UK, including new equipment and testing facilities.

Since 2001, it has raised over £3.6m, donating over £2.9m to the centre for buildings and equipment, and granting bursaries of £181,437 to staff. Appeal treasurer Colin Micklewright said a “considerable grant” was approved last year towards the installation of this new system. “It’s fantastic cancer patients in Cornwall are already able to receive the treatment through this new method.”