IPEM member becomes a Healthcare Science Innovation Fellow


AN IPEM member has become one of eight new Healthcare Science Innovation Fellows.

Joshua Naylor, Principal Radiotherapy Physicist at University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust, became one of the Fellows this month.

The programme is run by NHS England in partnership with the National School of Healthcare Science, Health Education and Improvement Wales, the Academy for Healthcare Science, Healthcare Science Cymru, and the National Institute for Health and Care Research Devices for Dignity MedTech Co-operative.

The Fellows have now started their 12-month course and each of the proposed innovation projects are aimed at reducing healthcare inequalities.

Treating lung cancer

Mr Naylor’s project is focused on the radiotherapy treatment of lung cancer patients, the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, with incidence rates in England being up to 174 per cent higher in the most deprived quintile compared with the least.

Most lung cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their treatment, with x-rays targeted at the tumour cells to kill them, but they also damage healthy tissue (causing dangerous side effects). Lung tumours move with a patients’ breathing so a large safety margin is used to encompass motion, thus irradiating more healthy tissue and causing more side effects.

The innovative technology Mr Naylor is working on is a Respiratory Module for Surface Guided Radiotherapy (SGRT), which is currently at a functional, pre-approval prototype stage. This is a new piece of equipment from the manufacturer, which will allow monitoring of the surface of the patient as they breathe and turn the radiation beam on and off as the tumour moves in and out of position (“gating”). The technology will require associated techniques to be developed alongside it.

The potential benefit is to shrink the large safety margin, irradiate less healthy tissue, reducing radiation toxicity to normal tissue (fewer side effects) and maintain non-inferior tumour control.

Beneficiaries of this technology are lung (and other thorax) cancer patients, in particular those whose tumour moves significantly with breathing.

The project is important as some patients at the Trust have to travel to other centres to receive this form of treatment (albeit gating without SGRT, using inferior techniques). Patients who are treated locally receive unnecessary doses of harmful radiation to their healthy lung and other non-cancerous tissue.

Minimising side effects

Mr Naylor said: ‘As a healthcare scientist working in radiotherapy physics, I work with my colleagues to make sure we deliver the right dose of radiation, to the right place, so our patients’ cancer is treated whilst minimising side effects to healthy tissues. This is more complex for lung cancer because the tumour moves as the patient breathes.

‘I have been working with surface guided radiotherapy (SGRT) since around 2018 at our centre – part of the team who selected and implemented SGRT provided by the manufacturer Vision RT.  During this fellowship, I will work closely with Vision RT to develop a new Respiratory Module feature which will allow us to more accurately treat lung cancer and reduce the side effects experienced by patients. 

‘It is a huge privilege to win this innovation fellowship and it is a great opportunity to be able to improve the care we give our patients – some lung cancer patients currently have to travel to other radiotherapy centres and this new technology will allow us to treat them here.

‘It is really exciting to be able to work with Vision RT on this project – we are one of only a couple of centres in the world who are doing this pre-clinical testing and it allows us to ensure the technology fits our patients’ needs.  The fellowship also provides opportunity to link up with, and learn from, experts in Devices for Dignity MedTech, NHS England and others which will be a really valuable experience.’

Dr Anna Barnes, IPEM’s President, said: ‘My congratulations to Joshua on achieving this fellowship. The work he is undertaking demonstrates the importance of innovation in healthcare science to benefit patients and I wish him well with his project.’

Healthcare Science Innovation Fellowships