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Two new linear accelerators, known as ‘Linacs’, have been officially opened at St. Luke’s Hospital, part of the SLRON (St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network). Bringing the total to 14 across the Network, the two new Linacs making it now one of the largest radiotherapy treatment centres in Europe.

Linacs target a tumour’s shape and destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue. The Network now has the capacity to treat over 400 cancer patients per day and the new €7.5m installment is expected to meet Ireland’s radiotherapy treatment needs for the next three years.

The new Linacs, which are used to provide treatment for the majority (>90 per cent) of patients undergoing radiotherapy in Ireland, are expected to treat an average of 30 patients per day, increasing capacity for cancer treatment within SLRON and improving survival rates for cancer patients.

The new state-of-the-art machines will include enhanced patient imaging facilities to ensure accuracy in delivery of treatment, a faster treatment delivery mode; and the capability to deliver treatment in time with the patient’s breathing cycle so that treatment accuracy for moving lung tumours and upper abdominal tumours will be improved.

There will also be the opportunity to ‘freeze’ the motion of moving tumours, allowing an unprecedented accuracy in treatment.

Such additional features will enable SLRON to participate in an increased number of international clinical trials, which is hoped will ultimately improve the service provided to patients.

Speaking at the opening, Minister for Health Simon Harris commented: “With the number of cases of cancer in Ireland expected to increase by nearly 50 per cent in men and 40 per cent in women by 2025, we need to focus on future-proofing our cancer service and today is an excellent example of this.

“While we continue to make great progress in Ireland in treating cancer and in improving our survival rates, we must also sustain our focus on prevention. It is essential that we increase awareness of cancer and encourage healthier lifestyles to prevent as many cancers as possible”, he added.

Network Director of St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network, Dr Orla McArdle, said: “I am proud to see SLRON leading the way in radiotherapy in Ireland as well as Europe. The new machines allow us to continue to deliver a world class radiotherapy treatment service for our patients when and where it’s needed, in line with the National Cancer Strategy as set out by the National Cancer Control Programme.

“Our staff have become experts in the delivery of complex radiotherapy treatments not previously available in the Irish health service thanks to state-of-the art equipment such as these machines.

“Our clinicians and staff recognise that technology and medical treatments for cancer are evolving at a very rapid rate and keeping pace with these developments is key to effectively treating patients and increasing survival rates”.