A cancer patient is recovering from a pioneering operation to implant chemotherapy ' wafers' in her brain at a Birmingham hospital today.

Surgeons at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston - one of just four centres in Britain to offer the treatment - were among the first to carry out the surgery.

Sue Griffiths, who was an auxiliary nurse at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, underwent the two-hour procedure yesterday.

The 41-year-old, who lives in High Ercall, near Telford, Shropshire, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in March


After enduring six weeks of radiotherapy, doctors discovered she had cancer of the womb and the mother-of-three had a hysterectomy to remove all the cancerous tissue.

Seven months after her first brain operation, Mrs Griffiths was devastated to learn the brain tumour had returned.

But following a referral to Professor Garth Cruickshank at the QE Hospital, she now hopes this will add about 18 months to her life.

Surgeons inserted chemotherapy wafers, called Gliadel, into the affected parts of her brain which after three or four days will dissolve to release the drug over six weeks.

Mr Cruickshank, professor of neurology who carried out the operation, said more patients should be given access to this treatment.

Last year between 20 and 25 people had the specialist surgery at QE Hospital.

He said: "At the moment two sorts of patients benefit from this - people like Sue who have a secondary cancer and those who have this as part of their first surgery.

"The implant is smaller than an Alkaseltzer and it is used in conjunction with a drug called lomustine, which has been used to treat patients for many years in tablets or injections.

"But the problem with the injections is that it can be toxic in high doses and can affect the bone marrow where it accumulates.

"These wafers are 1,000 times more powerful and because they are placed directly in the area there are no side effects or problems with the bone marrow."

Prof Cruickshank added: "We were the first trust to do this operation in Birmingham and we've been involved in telling other trusts about it.

"Although it affects a relatively rare group of patients I don't think this should be restricted to those with secondary cancer, there's an argument for it to be more widely used."

Mrs Griffiths' husband, Mark, will be running the London Marathon for Cancer Research at the weekend and is dedicating his race to Sue's "inspirational spirit."

The couple are both keen runners and often entered charity runs but on Sunday she will have to watch him from her hospital bed.

Mr Griffiths said: "However bad I feel it's always worse for Sue, but she was determined I should run the marathon this year whatever happened.

"We've been running for six or seven years, it was our hobby, it's what we did together but Sue was adamant I should do this year's race."

But the 40-year-old lorry driver, who has had to squeeze in training sessions into breaks from caring for his wife, admitted neither of them believed the cancer would return.

He said: "After Sue's initial treatment we had started to believe it would be alright, that it had been caught in time. I don't think we ever thought it could come back.

"Anything that can give her a little bit longer must be a good thing, so when we were referred to Professor Cruickshank, we had to give it a go.

"Looking at Sue for most of last year in a hospital bed was incredibly difficult, but I am using the marathon as a real opportunity to focus on achieving a target." n For more information about Cancer Research UK call 0207 009 8820 or log on to www.cancerresearchuk.org