CANCER patients in Southampton now have access to cutting-edge treatment that could extend their lives for up to five months when other therapy has failed.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust is one of only ten hospitals chosen to offer a life-extending radiotherapy treatment that targets tumours in the liver.

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) can be used on NHS patients with liver cancer that has spread from the bowel and those with bile duct cancer.

The NHS had previously allowed the use of SIRT, paid for by the Cancer Drugs Fund, but this came to an end in April when the government removed the treatment from the fund.

Since then only patients who could afford to pay for it privately could get it or those lucky enough to prove their case for exceptional circumstances.

With this latest announcement it means that patients across England will have fair access to this cancer therapy.

Dr Brian Stedman, consultant interventional radiologist at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “On behalf of our patients who have been waiting for several difficult months for this news, we are delighted by this announcement.

“We can now offer SIRT to eligible patients, many of who have no other treatment options available. This represents a significant advance for people affected by cancer in the South West.”

The SIRT procedure is a form of radiotherapy in which millions of tiny radioactive beads are injected into the artery that supplies the cancer, direct into the site of the liver.

SIRT, using microspheres, has been shown to significantly improve survival by about five months in patients with bowel cancer that has spread to the liver and who have failed prior chemotherapy.

Mark Flannagan, chief executive from the charity Beating Bowel cancer, added: “This announcement marks a major milestone in widening access to specialist cancer treatment.

“It’s a step in the right direction in breaking down inequalities where only those that can afford private care can benefit from pioneering treatments.

“Patients in England with liver cancer that has spread from the bowel, and who have exhausted other treatments, now have access to a therapy which can extend their survival so that they can spend extra time with their loved ones and enjoy more of life.”