High energy proton beam therapy (PBT) is a type of radiotherapy which offers enhanced precision in the targeting of tumours over conventional X-ray (photon) radiotherapy. This is especially helpful when targeting cancer close to important structures in the brain, spinal cord, eye or inner ear. Children, teenagers and young adults are those who will benefit most from this type of treatment.
Currently there are no high-energy PBT facilities in the UK; therefore patients have to be referred overseas for treatment. To date 500 patients have benefitted from this service. Not only will more patients be eligible for treatment from 2018 it will improve the experience of those that would normally have to go abroad.
Although the new UK PBT programme will save children and their families going abroad for treatments, the majority of patients will still be uprooted from their homes to be treated in Manchester or London.
Each centre requires additional investment over and above what the NHS can provide; the cost of this is £20 million and will include medical equipment, MRI scanners, specialist dual energy CT scanners as well as space to house the scanners.
Among other enhancements there will be provision of specialist paediatric anaesthetic suites, courtyard gardens, play rooms with play specialists within them. Along with patient activities and artistic programmes all of this will ensure the best possible experience for patients during their treatment, therefore guaranteeing a first class service from day one that will be a positive legacy for future cancer treatments in the UK.