Home News & Events News BLOG: What types of Cancer can be treated with MR-linac radiotherapy?

MR-linac is an advanced form of radiotherapy that combines the use of MR (magnetic resonance) imaging alongside radiotherapy to deliver a more accurate treatment. Tumours that can move during treatment, either because of the positioning of the patient, breathing, bowel changes or the bladder filling, for example, are more easily treatable with this form of radiotherapy.

You may not think it, but the position of the bladder can change considerably throughout a treatment session as it fills. During standard radiotherapy, the position of a tumour can move because of the change to the bladder, which is common in the event of prostate, bowel, and bladder cancer. This means that healthy tissue surrounding the tumour can be at risk of radiation exposure.

During a course of MR-linac radiotherapy, the risk of exposing healthy tissue is considerably reduced. This is because the technology can deliver accurate MR imaging during a treatment session, allowing the radiation to be tailored to the shape, position and size of the tumour. This not only helps to reduce the severity of side-effects experienced after treatment, but it also ensures that the full course of radiation is targeted towards the area that needs treating.


What types of cancerous tumours are treated with MR-linac radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy has always been one of the standard forms of cancer treatment, with MR-linac radiotherapy offering a more precise way of targeting tumours. Cancers in the bowelhead and necklungs and prostate can be referred for MR-linac radiotherapy, because of the daily changes to the anatomy.

Due to the live imaging functionality of the MR-linac technology, any movement from the patient (or indeed any changes in the positioning of the tumour) will be picked up in real-time. This allows for the treatment machine to deliver radiation to the cancerous tumour whatever its position. The MR-linac will contour its delivery of treatment to the needs of the patient as they are present on the treatment couch.

MR linac radiotherapy team

Images developed by the MR-linac are substantially better in quality than those by Cone-Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) systems. This means that oncologists can develop a clearer idea of the size, location, and stage of the tumour. As the treatment progresses and the patient undergoes more and more sessions, the team will be able to see the progress that is being made, which will help the oncology team decide what is best for the patient during their treatment plan.

The areas of the body that can be treated with MR-linac radiotherapy include:

  • Bladder
  • Breast
  • Oesophagus
  • Glioblastoma
  • Liver
  • Lung
  • Oropharynx
  • Pancreas
  • Prostate
  • Rectum
  • Stomach

*This list represents possible cancers that can be treated with MR-linac radiotherapy but may not be treated at the Rutherford at this time.

Why is MR-linac radiotherapy different from conventional radiotherapy?

The use of modern, state-of-the-art technology is what separates MR-linac radiotherapy from conventional radiotherapy. Rutherford Cancer Centres utilise the Elekta Unity MR-linac which allows our oncology teams to visualise the cancer tumour with greater confidence. This also allows our consultant oncologists to offer a broader range of treatment options for cancers that are more difficult to treat, either because of the size of the tumour or its location (or a combination of the two). 

Standard radiotherapy, otherwise known as conventional radiotherapy (or external beam radiotherapy) does the same job, just on a less targeted basis. This means that healthy tissue is more likely to be damaged, with patients suffering from side effects such as inflammation and irritation amongst others, while MR-linac radiotherapy generally isolates radiation to the target area. There will be many cases of cancer that will benefit from conventional radiotherapy, you can read more about this on our radiotherapy page.

MR linac radiotherapy suite

Contact Rutherford Cancer Centres today

This form of treatment is only currently available at our centre in the North West. For more information on the types of cancers, to which MR-linac radiotherapy may be suitable, our team is always here to help. Please get in contact with a member of our team today by calling us on 0800 210 0402 or complete our contact form here.

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