Lee Peck Media secures television coverage for a Southampton cancer charity

Lee Peck Media has secured television coverage for a Southampton cancer charity which has launched a £250,000 appeal to keep the only high-powered radiotherapy machine of its type in the UK.

Because of the COVID pandemic, Planets Cancer Charity cannot afford to keep up the £10,000 a month lease purchase agreement for the Intra Operative Electron Beam Radiotherapy Machine or IOERT machine, which is based at University Hospital Southampton.

And even though Planets have invested over £600,000 in the revolutionary machine since 2016, without further funds it will have to go back to the United States in January.

Layla Stephen is the co-founder and CEO of Planets and has been a neuroendocrine cancer patient for 12 years. She said: “IOERT is a specialised type of single treatment, high dose radiotherapy that is given in just one sitting during surgery, immediately after a cancerous tumour is removed. IOERT can also be used in combination with neo-adjuvant treatment including chemotherapy and external beam radiotherapy to shrink cancer before surgery or as a stand-alone treatment.”

“Typically, conventional radiotherapy will be given to a patient over six to seven weeks with all the risk, inconvenience and cost to the NHS that entails, especially during the current pandemic. IOERT is a revelation not only in its speed but in its effectiveness.”

IOERT treatment is potentially lifesaving for patients with advanced and complex recurrent cancers of a variety of organ systems. In Southampton it has mainly been used for colorectal (bowel) cancer, pancreatic cancers and head and neck cancers, but it can also be used for neuroendocrine cancers, bile duct cancer, gynaecological cancers, sarcomas, urological cancers, cancers of the neck and skull base and some paediatric cancers. The treatment is not suitable for all cancer types, but it does have a very wide range of potential applications.

For example, in advanced colorectal cancer, a University Hospital Southampton led international team has recently shown that IOERT leads to a 50% improved disease-free survival; and a 33% improved overall survival with no significant increase in complications.

With future fundraising looking uncertain because of the pandemic, Layla said £250,000 would help to ensure the IOERT machine stayed at University Hospital Southampton for the remainder of its useful life – easily 10+ years.

“These machines are found all across the world and they are standard practice in America and Europe and yet in the UK we just have the one, funded entirely by PLANETS Charity” said Layla. “That makes it even more imperative that we do all we can to make sure it stays here.”

Surgeon Mr Alex Mirnezami said: “This machine has made a real difference to our ability to treat cancer patients with locally advanced disease over the last three years. Finally, we are able to offer patients with these conditions combined surgical and radiotherapy treatments which are truly world-class and give patients a real chance of cure. It is so disappointing that after all the time and effort that has been put into this project and the massive amount of fundraising done by PLANETS that this is all going to be lost because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our ability to fund raise. What is particularly ironic is that the effects of this pandemic on our ability to diagnose and treat cancer means that more patients than ever have advanced disease and are in desperate need of IOERT treatment to give them a chance of cure and long-term survival.”