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Magic Wand Appeal secures SonoWand scanner to help brain cancer patients

Wednesday, 13th November 2013

The first of two new high-tech ultrasound scanners which enable more accurate brain surgery has been installed at Charing Cross Hospital's neurosurgery centre, marking a significant step forward for brain cancer treatment in London.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Charing Cross Hospital, was able to purchase the equipment, costing £250,000 each, thanks to a fundraising drive by the charity Brain Tumour Research Campaign (BTRC) spearheaded by the former mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Cllr Christopher Buckmaster.

Charing Cross Hospital is the first centre in the UK to have the latest model of the ground-breaking SonoWand mobile imaging equipment and is one of only two centres in the country to have an older model which has been in use since 2008. A second machine will be delivered to the hospital later this year. 

Councillor Christopher Buckmaster started his Magic Wand Appeal after a close friend was diagnosed with a brain tumour, he said: “This is marvellous news and a fitting end to the campaign which began to increase public awareness of the desperate need for more funding for brain cancer treatment and to raise funds for research at Charing Cross Hospital and the purchase of the new machines. I am so proud of everyone's efforts.”

The new equipment, called SonoWand Invite, helps surgeons operate more accurately, safely and quickly by converting pre-operative MRI scans into a virtual 3D reconstruction of the brain. During the procedure surgeons are able to see rapidly updated images of the brain and brain movement (shift) in real time so that they can remove as much of a tumour as possible without damaging healthy tissue. This is done by utilising integrated finely tuned and calibrated ultrasound that creates 3D images of the brain and blood vessels with high resolution that can be merged with the MRI.

This marks significant progress in the battle against brain cancer which causes more deaths in children and people under 40 every year than any other cancer. More than 800 Londoners are diagnosed with a brain, central nervous system or intracranial tumour every year while less than one per cent of cancer research funding goes to brain tumours. 

Mr Kevin O'Neill, consultant neurosurgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and co-founder of the charity BTRC, said: “Accurately locating a tumour and safely removing it without damage to normal brain tissue and blood vessels is a real challenge for surgeons. The SonoWand makes surgery safer, more accurate and more of the tumour is removed so that what's left responds better to other treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The new model is a major advance from the prototype and provides a platform to combine robotics and other technologies being developed at Charing Cross Hospital and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. 

“This is great news for brain tumour patients in London and for our team here at Charing Cross Hospital. Early studies using this technology are showing that patient survival and outcomes are better. The new equipment could revolutionise brain surgery, translating into patients living longer and therefore having the opportunity to benefit from our further research.” 

Sandra Stankovic, who lives in Ealing, was operated on by Mr O'Neill using the older model of the SonoWand in July for a rare type of cancerous brain tumour. Using the SonoWand meant the tumour was removed and blood vessels supplying the tumour were destroyed without damage to nearby vessels supplying healthy tissue.

Sandra is still in treatment to prevent the tumour from recurring although her last scan, a month ago, was clear. Sandra, a mother of two children, Leo aged seven and Lily aged five, and founder of an IT company, said: “Using the SonoWand combined with Mr O'Neill's exceptional skills meant the tumour was successfully removed and I am doing really well. The SonoWand meant the surgeon was not operating 'blind' on my brain and he could see the blood vessels in real time and navigate through them.”

Sandra has also been treated with anti-cancer drugs (chemotherapy) at Charing Cross Hospital since the tumour was first diagnosed seven years ago. She added: “I can't stress enough how amazing my care is at Charing Cross Hospital - my surgeon Mr O'Neill, my oncologist Dr Mark Glaser and the two oncology nurses, Shaun O'Gara and Theresa Sage - are all  brilliant and I feel very safe in their hands. Now with the new SonoWand equipment, I believe the treatment will be even better.”

The Trust was able to purchase the new machines, which each cost £250,000, thanks to the charity fund-raising campaign by the BTRC, Cllr Buckmaster's Magic Wand Appeal and private donors in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

BTRC co-founder Wendy Fulcher said: “One of our main aims has been to establish Charing Cross Hospital as an international centre of excellence for neuro-oncology and the new equipment marks a major step towards achieving this aim.”

Alexandra Dixon, one of Mr O'Neill's former patients, said: “It is such exciting news that Charing Cross Hospital has the latest model. The machine provides excellent imaging in real time during surgery - and I was lucky enough to be the first patient in London to benefit from it. Patients and doctors will be thrilled to have these brand new latest versions of the equipment."

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