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Tributes for pioneering ICR radiotherapy scientist Dr Roy Bentley

Dr Roy Bentley

Dr Roy Bentley. Credit and image courtesy of Peter Bentley. 

Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, have paid tribute to their former colleague and radiotherapy pioneer Dr Roy Bentley, who sadly died last month.

Dr Bentley developed the first computerised treatment planning system for radiotherapy, and his work helped to transform radiotherapy treatment and research.

Several current ICR researchers worked with Roy, and he will be greatly missed.

Roy Bentley completed a Bachelor's degree in Physics in 1951 and a PhD at the University of Birmingham in 1955, and spent the greater part of his working life at the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

His research was instrumental in developing computerised methods for studying and treating cancer, on which many modern cancer treatments rely.

Application of computers in medicine

Roy began his career with Professor Val Mayneord, Head of the Department of Physics at the Royal Marsden. He worked on the assessment of radioactive nuclides in the environment, particularly investigating the effects of the Winscale reactor fire, with several papers in Nature in the late 1950s and early 60s.

He turned his attention to the application of computers in medicine and in particular medical physics, with his interest focusing on applications in radiotherapy when direct interaction with computers had just become a practical proposition.

Roy worked with Professors Steve Webb and Martin Leach at the ICR, developing two computer-controlled scanning systems for radiotherapy treatment planning.

He also worked in the field of nuclear medicine and spent a year's sabbatical in the biomedical computer department at Washington University, St. Louis, in 1967, where he was one of the first people to link a computer online to a gamma ray camera.

He was also instrumental in the introduction of a computerised information system for The Royal Marsden.

Pioneering the application of computers to medicine

He looked after the physics department's link to the University of London computer system before the ICR had its own shared computer, and brought in the first departmental computer and the first ICR email system.This was the inception of the ICR computer service.

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the ICR said:

“Roy was a pioneer of the application of computers to medicine, enabling research and treatment at the ICR and The Royal Marsden to be at the forefront internationally. Roy's development, with Dr Jo Milan, of the RAD8 system, the first computerised radiotherapy planning system in the UK, led to a whole field of development, and to the planning systems now used to treat patients throughout the world.

“Roy's contributions to cancer research and benefit to cancer patients were very considerable and we were lucky to have had him as a colleague.”

Read Roy Bentley's obituary on the Guardian website.



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