Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre’s radiation oncologist Dr. Patrick Murray explains the significance of Bermuda’s state-of-the-art, purpose-built radiation therapy unit.

What is radiation therapy, and how does Bermuda Cancer and Health provide these services?
Radiation therapy is one of the most important tools in the fight against cancer. Oncology experts say that radiation has a role to play in the treatment of around two-thirds of those people who experience cancer. There are many forms of radiation throughout the world, so it is often misunderstood and hard to understand. The radiation used to treat and cure cancer harnesses the energy similar to simple X-rays but much more targeted, focused and powerful. Radiation works by creating breaks within the DNA of cancer cells preventing them from growing and dividing and often causing them to die. It’s often used in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy or surgery. BCHC provides radiation therapy in the same way as high-quality centres around the world, involving a team of experts. What is different for BCHC compared to many centres is that, whilst most of the team is based in Bermuda, some are in Boston at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DFBWCC)). The Bermuda team of experts work closely with their counterparts in Boston utilising their expertise to deliver the best quality of care locally.

Why should patients choose to have radiation therapy here in Bermuda, rather than travelling overseas to seek care elsewhere?
Receiving radiation therapy is an incredibly challenging time for anyone and being surrounded by the comfort of your own environment with your friends and family is of paramount importance. The radiation provided by BCHC in collaboration with DFBWCC is highest quality available worldwide. Locals therefore have the benefit of staying home with access to the high-quality care.

BCHC’s radiation therapy unit can treat 95 percent of cancers. Why does BCHC not treat the remaining five percent?
BCHC’s Truebeam LINAC (linear accelerator) system allows the team to provide high-quality radiation across nearly all cancer settings. The five percent we are unable to treat often encompasses very unique and challenging situations where either the technology needed is different or the expertise and specialisation is still best based overseas. One example might be paediatric radiation which we feel is best suited to overseas care.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge in providing radiation services in Bermuda?
The biggest challenge of providing radiation services here in Bermuda is finding the right balance between being a generalised specialist and a sub-specialist. I have spent most of my working and training time in large academic centres in which teams sub-specialise in just one or two areas of cancer care. In Bermuda you have to be very broad in your knowledge while maintaining a depth of knowledge about the individual cancers. The collaborative agreement here at BCHC with DFBWCC in Boston allows the programme to have an expert team on-island with sub-specialist experience at your fingertips over in the Boston team. This means you can constantly remain up to date with colleagues, so you get a personalised and human feel for the relentless update that happens in radiation oncology at this time.

How did you get involved with Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre, and can you describe any objectives or hopes that you have planned for the community?
Chris Fosker is the director of the radiation unit here and is a personal friend of mine; we’ve known each other for over 20 years. We trained together through medical school and did our postgraduate training in radiation and clinical oncology together. This new challenge for me is extremely exciting as BCHC is still developing and growing with many opportunities to provide expert care with a small team and develop new techniques. One of my areas of specialty in the latter part of my postgraduate training was in some of the more advanced specialised regulation radiation techniques, and it is my hope and intention to bring and develop those services here.

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Dr Patrick Murray hails from the UK, graduating from the University of Leeds in 2001. Subsequently gaining membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, he then obtained his research doctorate (MD) in 2013, investigating immunological changes within head and neck cancer, sparking his interest in the treatment of cancer. He completed his training in Clinical Oncology, including a fellowship in highly-focused stereotactic ablative radiotherapy, and joined the Leeds Cancer Centre as a Consultant in Clinical Oncology in 2017, before moving to join the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre’s radiation therapy department. Additionally, in September 2020, Dr. Murray started serving as a Consultant at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.

Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre is a registered charity engaged in the prevention, detection, treatment and support of cancer and other health concerns in the local community. 46 Point Finger Road, Paget, Tel: 236-1001