The First Proton Beam Cancer Therapy Centre in the UK Due to Open

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Wednesday 4th April 2018

A private clinic in Wales is due to launch the first high-power proton beam therapy centre in the UK next week.

The Rutherford Cancer Centre in Newport has been granted approval by the Health Inspectorate Wales and will operate in Coedkernew.

Proton beam treatment is a accurately targeted form of radiotherapy, which is used to reach difficult to access cancers, with less of the risk of damaging surrounding tissues that can make standard radiotherapy unviable in some cases.

Previously, it was a complicated and difficult procedure to get access too, not just in terms of cost but also that cancer patients who wanted proton beam treatment needed to travel abroad. The price of treatment is likely to be £60,000 per patient, however discussions are still being held between Proton Partners International, owners of the proton beam website, and the Welsh NHS regarding whether Welsh NHS patients would be treated in Newport.

Clinical trials are still ongoing as to its efficacy however there are cases of the treatment already changing people’s lives. Freya Beven, 5, was treated in Oklahoma City for a rare brain tumour. The proposal for overseas treatment was turned down by the NHS but a £110,000 fundraiser by the community raised the funds required to undergo the treatment. This changed Freya’s and her family’s lives, and she now attends school. The family is overjoyed, however her John Paul Bevan, Freya’s father, was frustrated that it took twenty years to catch up to something that is regularly used in other nations.

There is a low-energy proton beam centre on the Wirral which is used specifically to take care of rare eye cancers, however the facility in Newport is able to deliver much higher doses of targeted radiation which can be used to treat a wider number of cancers.

The reaction of oncology experts in the UK is one of excitement, and that while currently it is too expensive to use on a general basis, it is something that is being looked on with interest as ongoing clinical trials are gathering evidence about how beneficial the treatment is.

Mike Moran, the CEO of Proton Partners International urged a grown up conversation to discuss the arrival of proton beam therapy, and how it can be used effectively and properly, as well as access is given to patients of such a treatment.

A further clinic is expected to be launched at the Christie Hospital in Manchester, as well as a further centre in London

The NHS has previously had an overseas treatment scheme for providing funding to travel abroad to have proton beam therapy. When the Manchester and London clinics are launched, this scheme will be wound down.

Emerging technologies are always cause for interest, particularly when they relate to more effective treatments of cancers. Any proven treatment that can reduce the risk of cancer becoming a death sentence, particularly for rare or more dangerous cancers for which there are less established treatments is worth funding, and it is an encouraging sign that three clinics are being established to meet this need and potentially save lives.