Two years ago, detailed preparations for a very special charity night were in full swing. Sir Bobby Robson – A Celebration, supported by Virgin Money, was a star-studded fundraising event that brought together family, friends, musicians, comedians, football greats and admirers to remember Sir Bobby on the night he would have turned 80 (18th February 2013).
Now the people who volunteered their time to make that evening at The Sage Gateshead such a huge success have come back together, at Lady Elsie’s invitation, to see the incredible, life-saving technology their efforts have helped fund for cancer patients in the North East and Cumbria.
A total of £80,000 was raised for two charities, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Alan Shearer Foundation, through Sir Bobby Robson – A Celebration.
Along with thousands of other fundraising events, activities and donations, the money has enabled the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to help fund a combination of cutting edge radiotherapy technology, which was previously only available in London and is now at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care (NCCC) at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.
The stereotactic radiotherapy system uses detailed scans and computerised 4D treatment planning to treat cancer and deliver radiation with tremendous accuracy. Small, thin beams of radiation are directed from different angles to meet at the tumour, which receives a high dose of radiation while the surrounding healthy tissues receive a reduced dose.
Purchase of the new technology has been made possible thanks to a special collaboration between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and local hospital charities and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation made its largest contribution to date – £850,000 – to help fund it.
Patients with lung cancer are already receiving stereotactic radiotherapy treatment with scope to extend treatment to other tumour sites in both children and adults.
In addition, prostate cancer patients, including Clive Sinton from Blyth (pictured here with wife Joyce and Lady Elsie), are now receiving radiotherapy treatment in the unit, which has such sophisticated imaging technology that standard treatment of 37 sessions can now be delivered in 20.
There are plans to reduce this still further, to just five treatment sessions, which will then be delivered with stereotactic radiotherapy.
Dr Ian Pedley, consultant clinical oncologist and clinical director for NCCC, explains: “Until we had this unit, patients referred to the NCCC travelled to Sheffield, Leeds or London for similar treatments. In fact, this particular combination of technology was only available in London.
“The Novalis Truebeam STX alone is a hugely exciting piece of cancer treatment technology and that was funded by the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
“But we’ve been able to do even more for our patients thanks to the additional charitable funding we’ve received and that’s enhanced the stereotactic radiotherapy unit with additional technology.
“All working together, the new system delivers such high doses of radiation to tumour sites that treatment for patients can, in some cases, be reduced from weeks to just one to five days. And effects on nearby organs are minimised.
“Having this equipment at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care will enable cancer patients from the region to be treated more quickly and effectively than ever before. It’s amazing what the NHS and local hospital charities have achieved together.”
The state-of-the-art stereotactic radiotherapy system includes a Novalis Truebeam STX linear accelerator, a BrainLab planning system, 6 Degrees of Freedom treatment couch and ExacTrac patient positioning and delivers stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR). This means extremely high doses of radiation can be delivered with pin-point, multi-dimensional accuracy to malignant and benign tumours that are difficult to treat by surgery or conventional radiotherapy.
Damage to surrounding tissue is minimal, vastly reducing potential side effects and treatment is delivered in just a few short radiotherapy sessions instead of weeks of conventional radiotherapy.
The unit also features a luminous SkyCeiling, a virtual skylight that gives the illusion of real sky views to alleviate stress, promote patient relaxation, provide positive distraction and improve the patient experience.
It is the first time Lady Elsie has seen the completed unit, which opened last year, and she was thrilled to share the moment with some of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation fundraisers who helped make it happen.
Lady Elsie says: “I’m very lucky to constantly meet with people who are fundraising for the Foundation. Their enthusiasm is boundless and it’s marvellous to be here today and see how much that hard work and generosity is achieving for people with cancer.
“I know Bob would be fascinated by the technology in this unit and I’m so proud that our charity has helped make it happen.
“I sincerely hope everyone involved with the Sir Bobby Celebration night and all the many people who have organised their own events and activities feel the same sense of pride and achievement I do.
“Together, with this charity, we are making such a difference for people in our region with cancer and I hope we’ll do so for years to come.”
One of the patients receiving treatment in the new unit is Clive Sinton, a 78-year-old from Blyth. A retired electrical technician, he is a married to Joyce and has two children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Clive says: “I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September last year and I’ve had 14 treatments here, so six to go. I have a review in six weeks time and we’ll know better then where I’m at.
“I’m finding the treatment fine, no problems really. There’s been no after affects for me so far. There can be side effects but thankfully they haven’t happened to me yet.
“There’s a tremendous atmosphere when you come here. All the staff are great and you really get to know each other. It’s all first name terms. There’s no better word for it than tremendous.”
Sir Bobby Robson – A Celebration is available on a DVD, which is raising funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation
Another (K)Night to Remember includes all the highlights from the event including Sir Bobby’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and a host of funny and moving extra interviews from the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Bob Moncur and Lady Elsie.
It is available in Windows, Newcastle, MetroCentre and Darlington and online from www.mawson-wareham.com.
In December 2011, Sir John Hall, a patron of Charlie Bear for Cancer Care, a fund dedicated to raising money for the NCCC at the Freeman Hospital, launched an appeal to bring this combination of radiotherapy technology to the region. In less than one year, thanks to the overwhelming generosity and fundraising efforts of the public, the Charlie Bear appeal raised £200,000.
In November 2012, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation then made a massive £850,000 contribution to the appeal (their biggest single contribution) which, with a £1.8 million investment from the Trust and an additional contribution of £150,000 from the Newcastle Healthcare Charity, was the amount needed to finally secure the new equipment for the NCCC.
The money contributed by the charities represents thousands of generous donations and amazing individual and group fundraising efforts.