CANCER patients in Scotland are missing out on radiotherapy treatments that could potentially cure their cancer, experts gathering in Edinburgh will hear today.

In his address to the Scottish Cancer Conference, Glasgow-based cancer expert Professor Anthony Chalmers will tell delegates that state-of-the-art radiotherapy machines, which are already installed in Scotland’s cancer centres, are not being used to their full potential.

As well as standard treatments, the machines, called Linear Accelerators (linacs), have the ability to deliver advanced forms of radiotherapy which can be more effective because they target cancers more accurately.

Professor Chalmers, a Cancer Research UK funded specialist in radiotherapy treatment, said: “As well as standard treatments, Scotland’s linacs have the ability to deliver advanced radiotherapy treatments that target cancers more accurately, minimising damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.

"In some cases this enables us to give higher radiotherapy doses to the cancer. The new techniques can also significantly reduce the number of treatment sessions required, improving patients’ experiences and outcomes overall.

“All cancer centres in Scotland should be delivering advanced radiotherapy to all the patients who would benefit.

"Four times as many eligible patients will receive these new treatments in some regions of Scotland compared to others.”

Experts estimate that four in ten cancer cures involve radiotherapy treatment.

Professor Chalmers, who is based at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and is the chairman of Clinical Oncology at the University of Glasgow, is set to highlight the range of benefits of advanced radiotherapy when he addresses conference delegates tomorrow.

He will also outline how, in some cases, advanced radiotherapy can offer curative treatments in as few as three to five sessions.

This compares to six to eight weeks of daily treatments for many patients receiving standard radiotherapy.

Professor Chalmers, added: “In clinical trials and in day-to-day treatment of cancer patients we are seeing growing evidence of the significant benefits of advanced radiotherapy, in terms of increasing cancer cure rates as well as minimising side effects.

"It’s vital that patients across the whole of Scotland can benefit from these treatments.”

The Scottish Cancer Conference is run by Cancer Research UK on behalf of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Cancer.

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager, said: “Scotland is very fortunate to have a world-class infrastructure for delivering advanced radiotherapy, but this will mean nothing to patients until all these machines are being used to their potential.

“We understand solutions to this problem are complex and would likely involve, among other things, increased recruitment of specialists from a range of backgrounds.

"However, while there is no quick fix, the stark reality is that patients are missing out on potentially curative treatments, so this issue must now be nothing less than a top priority for the Scottish Government."