BBC Horizon follows the construction of our Proton Beam Therapy Centre 

19/07/2019 00:00 
Proton beam therapy (PBT) is an advanced form of radiotherapy used for the treatment of complex and hard-to-treat cancers in children and adults.

Previously patients had to travel abroad for PBT, but now patients can benefit from local access to this advanced treatment at The Christie and from 2020 at UCLH, with potentially better outcomes and a lower risk of longer term side effects.

Over two years, Horizon followed engineers, scientists and clinical teams as the two NHS high energy proton beam therapy centres are built at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and at UCLH.

Derek D’Souza, medical physicist for the project at UCLH, is featured explaining how the shielding in the building keeps patients, staff and the public safe and how PBT works. Derek said: “The programme helps explain this ambitious project and that having PBT available in England will mean more children and adults can have access to this important treatment for rare and complex cancers.”

To add to the challenge at UCLH, the PBT centre is based below ground, enabling us to develop a new surgical service and Europe’s largest centre for the treatment of blood disorders in the floors above. Creating this basement involved digging London’s widest deepest hole, a major construction challenge that took around a year to achieve.

The programme follows the first children who were treated at The Christie in Manchester. At the moment, people who need PBT are either treated at The Christie or overseas.

One patient, Lissie Simpson, had proton beam therapy in Essen in Germany in spring 2018. Lissie, who is 23 years old, had a brain tumour. Surgery removed 90 per cent of the tumour and when the tumour began to grow two years later, PBT was used to shrink, stabilise and prevent  the tumour from growing. Proton beam therapy was the treatment of choice because of its precision - it would only target the cancer and preserve health tissue around it.

Lissie said: “I am very grateful to have been offered proton beam therapy and so pleased with my recent scan results. I am regaining my fitness and in a few weeks’ time I am hoping to complete the Yorkshire three peaks.  Having the centre in London will really help patients, socially, physically, mentally, and economically.”

The programme is on BBC 2 on Monday 22 July at 9pm and you can find out more about our new facility here.

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