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 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 strategic outline case.

The UCLH centre is expected to open in 2021.

Up to 750 people will be treated at the proton beam therapy centre each year at UCLH.

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.

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.”

The Christie's Proton Beam Therapy Centre opened in December 2018. People can have PBT at The Christie or they may travel overseas as part of the overseas treatment programme run by NHS England.

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

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.

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.