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Kath’s memory honoured with opening of specialist centre

04 August 2017
Cambridge University Hospitals today (Friday 4 August) opened a state-of-the-art medical suite named after a much missed colleague who tragically died whilst on a trip of a lifetime to celebrate her 50th birthday.

The Kath Walker Radiosurgery Suite was opened at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, by Kath’s daughter, Rebecca Walker (pictured right).

Kath headed the hospital’s Radiotherapy department until November 2015 when she and partner, Andy Virco (pictured below), died in a helicopter crash on a glacier in New Zealand during a sight-seeing trip. Andy was due to celebrate his 50th birthday within days of the accident.

Thanks to support from Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT), the refurbished suite includes a state-of-the-art machine – called the TrueBeam™ STx with Novalis® Radiosurgery– meaning CUH is now one of 17 specialist centres in the UK that deliver a highly advanced form of radiotherapy, called Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS).

The dedicated radiosurgery program, from America’s Varian Medical Systems and  Germany’s Brainlab, allows the radiation to be administered in fewer high-dose treatments than traditional therapy, which can help preserve healthy tissue.

It will benefit between 150-200 patients in the East of England suffering with conditions such as benign and malignant brain tumours, who previously would have had to travel to London and beyond for this treatment.

The light and airy suite is complemented by colourful artwork created from photographs that Andy took on previous travels with Kath in the UK and abroad.

Rebecca, known to her friends as Bex, said: “The naming of this centre is a magnificent tribute to mum, who was dedicated to her work, her staff and the many patients she helped during her career.

“If she were here today she would be absolutely thrilled to see all the advanced equipment and proud that Addenbrooke’s retains its position as a world leader in the treatment of life-threatening cancers.”

Operation Head of Radiotherapy, Kevin Skilton, who worked with Kath for more than nine years, added: “The opening of this new suite is fantastic news for patients and the staff who work in Radiotherapy. We would like to thank Rebecca for coming along to today and bringing back so many fond memories of her mum, who worked at the hospital for 23 years. We would also like to thank ACT for its support.”

ACT spokesman and CUH's clinical lead for cancer services, Dr Hugo Ford added:  “We were delighted to support the creation of a suite that will not only help many more patients, but also keep alive the memory of Kath who was deeply loved and respected by staff and patients, and who contributed so much to the success of our department and the hospital.”

For more information call the press team on (01223) 274433.