Proton Beam Therapy arrives in the UK (at last)

Proton Beam Therapy arrives in the UK (at last)

A private Proton Beam Therapy centre - the Rutherford Cancer Centre - has opened in Newport, South Wales and is already treating patients. Two other independent centres are being built at Reading and Liverpool. Hitherto, (only 2 hours from London) led you to a private centre in Prague.

The three NHS centres planned for Britain, are now just two (London and Manchester) and are expected to open in 2020. Don’t hold your breath.

Proton Beam Therapy differs from conventional radiotherapy considerably, not least in that it delivers more power to a more tightly defined area, whilst not damaging any tissue before or after the tumour. There is also less scatter damage. All-in-all, side-effects are considerably less than those of old fashioned radiotherapy.

Chris Woollams, former Oxford University Biochemist and a founder of CANCERactive said, “I well remember writing up Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) some 6 or 7 years ago for CANCERactive on this Website, and being criticised by Cancer Research UK. They had supported two expensive Cyberknife machines being built in Britain. These Cyberknife machines are old fashioned radiotherapy, but move round the body thus delivering less damage to any one area on the way into the tumour or after it. Well, that’s the theory. 

Several bloggers linked to CRUK joined the criticism of my support for Proton Beam Therapy saying there was no research. Yet, as I quoted in the article, it was ‘invented’ by the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and they had already used it on 15,000 patients at that time. It can be used in almost every situation where radiotherapy can be used but is especially relevant where you don’t want damage to surrounding areas, like brain tumours.

You also don’t get clinical trials on radiotherapy. How would you remove the placebo effect; not turn the machine on?

The MD Anderson Cancer Center has a specialist children’s unit where PBT is very useful. We also covered the story of Ashya King, the young lad with a brain tumour who was ‘kidnapped’ by his own parents and had PBT.

Go to: A full review on Proton Beam Therapy

In America there have been more than 20 centers for the past 5 years. We suggest Proton Beam Therapy (or HiFu) for men with confined prostate cancer. At CANCERactive we have a number of patients totally cured 3-5 years later, and with none of the usual incontinence and impotence side-effects. We totally support the use of Proton Beam Therapy.

The downside is the cost. In the USA HiFu might cost $25,000, but Proton Beam Therapy can run to $50,000 and even $75,000. You still need the 6 weeks of 5 sessions a week apparently, but this may be reducing.

In an NHS reeling from past cuts in funding, the idea of switching to Proton Beam Therapy instead of old fashioned radiotherapy produces arguments such as ‘not appropriate for every cancer’, or ‘radiotherapy has evidence behind it while Proton Beam doesn’t’ etc. etc. The Truth about Proton Beam Therapy is the cost. For the patient, it is definitely better, more powerful and with less side-effects, but sending patients for a private treatment in the UK can cost over £65,000 ($85,000 US). Then of course, the NHS will need to train people for its own centres and the Cyberknife machines would become redundant and you start to see why I was so heavily criticised when I wrote the first articles.”


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