Why we need Proton Beam Therapy (PBT)
 

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    "It would take the pressure off parents and enable children to carry on with a normal school life and have the support of their friends and family close by."

    Katie Swain, Mother of patient Matilda

     
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    "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."

    Ed Anderton, Father of patient Lennie

     
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    “If people are coming to UCLH from outside of London then there is lots for them to do. It’s an exciting opportunity to explore the capital.”

    Samuel Oliver

     
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    "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."

    Ed Anderton, Father of patient Lennie

     

Having high energy proton beam therapy (PBT) available from two NHS centres (one at UCLH and one at The Christie in Manchester) will make a big difference to patients and their families.

PBT is a particularly effective form of radiotherapy used to treat certain types of cancers. It uses a high energy beam of protons rather than high energy X-rays to deliver a dose of radiotherapy. It directs the radiation treatment to precisely where it is needed with minimal damage to surrounding tissue. The treatment is particularly suitable to complex childhood cancers and other hard to treat cancers.

At the moment, people who need PBT have to travel abroad for treatment. In March 2015, the government announced an investment of £250 million to develop two UK PBT centres (one at UCLH and the other at The Christie in Manchester). This development is a key component of the Government's Cancer Strategy (Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer (2011) and a case was made in a strategic outline case

The UCLH centre is expected to treat patients by 2019.

Explaining PBT

Dr Yen-Ch’ing Chang, a paediatric consultant and UCLH lead for PBT, said: "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.”

About the UK service

The UK service will bring together some of the world’s leading specialists in complex cancers. Together, UCLH and The Christie 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.

Which cancers does PBT work best on?

PBT is particularly suitable for complex childhood cancers. For example, very rare cancers including tumours affecting the base of the skull or spine.

More information about which cancers are treated with PBT is available from the NHS England website.

How do patients get PBT now?

In April 2008 the NHS established a programme to send patients overseas for PBT.

Because PBT is a specialist treatment for rarer cancers, it is commissioned nationally by NHS England. More information is available on their website.

Currently, the NHS sends children and adults needing PBT to the United States and Switzerland.

There are other centres overseas including in: China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and South Africa.

Patient information

This short film sets out how PBT can benefit patients and includes footage of what the new sites may look like.

 Useful links