Westmead Hospital treats first patient on new $5.2m linear accelerator

Shalvey resident and cancer patient Godwin D’Ugo.

Shalvey resident Godwin D’Ugo was the first cancer patient to be treated on Westmead Hospital’s new, state-of-the-art linear accelerator, which uses revolutionary technology to target tiny tumours.

The 63-year-old underwent stereotactic radiosurgery at the hospital’s Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre (CPMCC) today (August 23), using the new machine to treat a brain tumour.

The CPMCC officially opened the new $5.2 million Varian STx machine on Monday, allowing patients with tiny malignant and benign brain tumours to undergo more precise radiosurgery.

The machine, which can also be used to treat small tumours in other parts of the body including the lungs, liver and bones, uses advanced imaging and special immobilisation equipment to directly target small tumours.

Westmead CPMCC director Dr Verity Ahern said the machine was a win for patients, significantly reducing treatment times.

“This machine makes it possible to deliver accurate, image-guided treatment very quickly,” she said.

“At the same time, we can monitor for tumour motion, which really increases accuracy; it means that very small cancers to the brain can be treated, while sparing of a lot of healthy, normal brain tissue.”

The CPMCC also provides radiation treatment for kids from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead – and Dr Ahern said the new machine would make treatment much easier for little patients.

“The ability to treat children with brain tumours on this new machine will provide very focused radiation, with little dose to the rest of the brain, which is so important in a developing child,” she said.

The new LINAC machine is part of Westmead Hospital’s Capital Works program, which replaces major pieces of ageing medical equipment.

The installation of the new machine was quite an effort, as it had to be craned into the building due to its size and weight.

WSLHD director of capital works Jonathan Darwen said a team of builders spent months planning for the installation before craning in the machines on a weekend to minimise disruption.

“Our team came in at 5am and spent hours craning the huge machine into the hospital; these machines weigh up to 10 tonnes each so they’re incredibly heavy to move,” he said.

“The whole operation went really smoothly and we’re thrilled to have this new, high-tech LINAC on offer at the hospital.”

The capital works program also included a more than $1m refurbishment of the LINAC facilities.

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