UCLH to provide world-leading radiotherapy for cancer patients 

31/07/2013 00:00 

The world’s most advanced form of radiotherapy is coming to UCLH (University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) after the Government today committed £250 million to bring Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) to the UK.

Lennie Anderton, who flew to America for proton beam therapy at just 10-months-old, together with his parents Ed and Katherine and sister Zoe 

The Trust’s outline business case for PBT has been approved by the Treasury and the procurement process to purchase the high-tech equipment will now begin.

Public health minister Anna Soubry announced the funding which will be split across two new PBT centres, one at UCLH and one at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

Proton Beam Therapy is a particularly important form of cancer treatment as it targets tumours more precisely with less damage to surrounding tissues. This can improve the quality of life following cancer treatment, reduce side effects, especially for children and, because the NHS will be able to treat more people, it will save lives.

Currently, the NHS sends children and adults needing Proton Beam Therapy to the United States, but from 2018 it will be offered to up to 1,500 cancer patients at UCLH and The Christie.

The Prime Minister’s commitment to increasing access to advanced radiotherapy treatments will significantly improve the experience for patients and their families who currently have to travel long distances for treatment.

Sir Robert Naylor, UCLH chief executive, said “We’re pleased that the Treasury has approved the business case to bring PBT to the UK. This means advanced planning can proceed to the point of deciding which equipment to purchase. This development means a life-changing difference for thousands of patients in the future, particularly children and teenagers.  This will see the NHS becoming a world-leader in paediatric radiotherapy, and gaining an international profile in many complex adult cancers.”

Artist's impression of how the UCLH Proton Beam Therapy Centre will look. Picture courtesy of Scott Tallon Walker

The UCLH service will be delivered from the Trust’s campus in the heart of the capital where it enjoys a close collaboration with UCL on groundbreaking research projects. The site has direct access to the Trust’s existing radiotherapy department and will be a stone’s throw from the new University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre. The proposal was developed with the support of the UCLH Charity.

The UK service will bring together some of the world’s leading specialists in complex cancers.  Together, the Christie and UCLH will see more children and teenagers with cancer than almost any other centre in the world, and more adults with brain cancers than any other centre in the UK. The two trusts will also be able to drive forward research into what remains a relatively new treatment.

Dr Yen-Ch’ing Chang, UCLH lead on Proton Beam Therapy, added: "Proton beam therapy’s main advantage is that less normal tissue is irradiated. This is a particular advantage in children and young adults. Irradiating healthy tissues in children and teenagers can result in significant long term effects, such as problems with growth, IQ, development through puberty, hormone deficiencies, fertility, as well as an increased risk of the development of a second cancer. Proton beam therapy significantly reduces the chance of such side effects occurring.

“Cancer patients who might benefit from proton beam therapy include children, teenagers and young adults as well as patients with complex tumours of the brain, bone and soft tissues."

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said: “We want the NHS to have the best cancer treatments available in the world. By investing in Proton Beam Therapy facilities, we will be able to treat more patients in the UK and reduce the stress placed on families who have had to travel to the United States to receive this innovative treatment.

“This is a huge milestone for the NHS – not only will Proton Beam Therapy help save more lives, it will also ensure that patients experience fewer side-effects and have a better quality of life.”

Lennie with his sister Zoe

Two-year-old Lennie Anderton flew to America for proton beam therapy in July 2012. At just 10-months-old he had been left blind from cancer of the skull, but together with his parents Ed and Katherine and sister Zoe, 5, he travelled to the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, Jacksonville, for the life-saving treatment.

Ed said: “It would be wonderful to see families who are in a similar situation to us being able to get the same treatment here and not having to leave the country for three months like we did.”

He said his family was ‘sucked into a different world’ after taking Lennie to A&E during a family holiday in February 2012. Lennie was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital where he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma of the skull. “It felt like falling off a cliff,” said Ed.

“It was devastating news and we then had to go to America and leave our support network and take time off work. We made a success of Florida – it wasn’t a bad experience – but being at home would have been ideal.”

Ed, of Tottenham, said that following the treatment, Lennie is making good progress and is ‘jolly and full of laughter’. Ed and Katherine have documented their family’s journey over the last 18 months in an online blog.

If you have any enquiries regarding PBT at UCLH, please email protons@uclh.nhs.uk.


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