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AI-enhanced cancer treatment is better for patients in UK first

Addenbrooke's is the first NHS hospital to use an AI-enhanced superhot needle treatment to pinpoint and destroy life-threatening tumours in one go, including hard-to-reach cancers.

Two nurses standing either side of a CT scanning machine
Radiographers Control Station Scanner

The treatment, known as thermal ablation, is highly-targeted and can treat multiple small tumours with less risk to surrounding healthy tissue. The target area is segmented, that is mapped in advance, using CT images. These images show the clinician where to guide the needles during the procedure.

But gases and blood in the treated area can make this mapping process less accurate meaning the more hard-to-find tumours potentially remain only partially treated. This can lead to local tumour recurrence, often not detected until post-treatment scans. When this happens, a patient may need to go through the process again.

Using AI to train computers to do the mapping makes the treatment quicker, less invasive for the patient, and more accurate. It also means the treatment is carried out in a CT-suite rather than in an operating theatre. Therefore, further scans can be taken during the actual treatment, providing near real-time monitoring which reduces the potential need for further treatment.

Watch: Dr Nadeem Shaida explains how AI helps patients undergoing thermal ablation at Addenbrooke's (opens in a new tab)

Combining the precision of AI and thermal ablation means hard-to-reach or very small tumours can be more easily and effectively treated without the need for repeat treatments. This means we can treat more patients and save and improve more lives. We are really grateful to ACT for making us the first NHS hospital to be able to offer this AI-enhanced treatment.

Dr Nadeem Shaida, Addenbrooke's Consultant Interventional Radiologist

Two-year pilot highlights benefits

The hospital's charity, Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (ACT), bought the £250,000 thermal ablation machine following a two-year pilot involving 50 patients with liver cancer. Less than half of those treated during the pilot needed further treatment. The hospital is now looking at how this treatment can be expanded to kidney and other cancer patients.

Patients diagnosed with cancer deserve access to powerful, life-saving treatments. Generous donations from our supporters help us to make such treatments possible, making Addenbrooke's even better.

Shelly Thake, CEO, Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust

Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital

Artist's impression
Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital

The development comes as Addenbrooke's forges ahead with plans to build the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, a world-class facility that will bring NHS staff and scientists together to deliver personalised precision treatments to patients.

Construction work on the new hospital’s site is due to begin in 2024. The hospital is set to be the first delivered in the East of England as part of the Government’s New Hospital Programme.