Leeds Teaching Hospitals: World-first clinical trials use 'Star Wars era' tech previously thought impossible

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World-first trials of pioneering “Star Wars era” medical tech saw an 81-year-old undergo innovative new treatments for tumours in Leeds.

Brenda Wallis was one of more than 25,000 patients enrolled in the studies at Leeds Teaching Hospitals over the last year as part of the trust’s groundbreaking clinical trials.

Doctors said her life has been “significantly changed” as a result of the treatments.

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Leeds Teaching Hospitals

The octogenarian, from Sheffield, was diagnosed with tumours in both of her kidneys. In January, she underwent a procedure that saw her damaged tissue blasted with extreme cold.

The treatment, known as cryoablation, utilises very low temperatures to precisely target any abnormalities. It was followed by a second cutting-edge procedure in March in which ultrasound was used to eradicate tumours.

This treatment - histotripsy - used a brand new system that pioneered non-invasive treatments in a world-first. It removed the need for needles or incisions, meaning that patients recover much faster.

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Brenda said: "I was referred last October, and it has been wonderful—wonderful treatment, wonderful people, and very confident in what’s happening.

"I thought: for once in my life, I am at the right place and time with extraordinarily good people. I am very thankful I was referred to Leeds Teaching Hospitals and had the initial treatment.

"I am happy with the treatment, and hopefully, once I have had the follow-up monitoring as part of the trial, I will be fit and healthy and be able to get on with the rest of my life, which I intend to enjoy."

Professor Tze Min Wah, Professor of Interventional Radiology at St James University Hospital, led the studies. She said: "The use of the histotripsy treatment is deemed 'Star Wars era' technology because it ventures into an environment that was previously thought to be impossible.

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"The future looks promising; this is just the tip of the iceberg. As the study lead in the UK, I am privileged to lead the global first clinical translation of this innovative technology and pave the way of evidence for the global population.

"I would like to thank the amazing team that I work with that have supported me to deliver the successful and safe translation of this technology to our patients."

From April 2023 to March 2024, the trust enrolled 25,695 participants across 760 active studies, with an additional 22,113 participants engaged in National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) portfolio studies.

Another success story involved patient Jennifer Perrin. She attended a lung health check in Leeds and was subsequently offered a kidney screening as part of a trial funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research.

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It revealed the presence of tumours on her kidney, which led to her referral to Professor Wah. Jennifer then underwent the innovative histotripsy treatment using the new system.

She said: "After the treatment I received at the hospital, I returned to my normal activities. I enjoy line dancing and gardening.

"The team were excellent and very efficient. Some advice I will consider giving to anyone who wants to take part in the clinical trial is yes, have it done. For me, it was not a problem at all."

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