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Proton therapy arrives in the UK

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 13, 2018
European News Rad Oncology Proton Therapy
A cancer center in South Wales
has administered proton therapy to
the first patient in the U.K.
The Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales has delivered the first bout of proton therapy treatment in the U.K. to a cancer patient.

The arrival of the high-energy cancer-fighting method, proven to target tumors more precisely and produce fewer side effects compared to conventional radiotherapy, provides Brits with the option to seek out the treatment domestically rather than travel abroad for it.

“After many years being behind the game, the U.K. can now deliver a transformational change for cancer patients over the next five years with Rutherford Cancer Centres,” Professor Karol Sikora, chief medical officer of the center’s parent company, Proton Partners International (PPI), told HCB News. “Proton Partners International's aim is to have a Rutherford Cancer Centre within 90 minutes of 75 percent of the U.K. population by 2021. There is a growing demand for proton beam therapy, and we as a country need to be fully equipped to meet that demand."

More than 150,000 U.K. cancer patients undergo radiation therapy annually. PPI argues that ten percent who receive radical radiotherapy would benefit more from PT, ushering in a need for at least 15 more such facilities.

The Welsh-based enterprise itself plans to open eight more PT cancer centers across the U.K., eliminating long-distance travel for patients to countries such as the U.S. and Switzerland, where costs for such treatments add up to around £114,000 (over $140,000).

The Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales utilizes a single-room Proteus One proton beam therapy system, designed by Ion Beam Applications (IBA) Group and approved for use there in February.

The system, installed in May 2017, is more compact than large multi-room systems, and is equipped with pencil beam scanning, enabling precise targeting of tumors while minimizing exposure to healthy tissues.

IBA plans to supply and provide maintenance for Proteus One systems at PPI’s eight other centers in development, agreeing to do so for the last three in March.

PPI is also engaged in a two-year collaborative research project with the University of Liverpool to develop a measurement system to enhance proton beam therapy technology, and has joined The College of Radiographers’ Industry Partnership Scheme to fund future research and educational projects.

“At least with proton beam therapy now underway in Wales, we now have a road map that is taking us from the B class road to the motorway and patients will benefit from leaving the scenic route behind,” said Sikora. “We are still far behind Europe and the USA but what is hugely encouraging is that we as a country will no longer have to send patients to the United States or Europe for proton beam therapy."

The initiation of PT therapy in the U.K. follows that of the Netherlands which treated its own first patient last month, and the opening of the first PT therapy facility in Russia whose first patient has already completed treatment.

The Rutherford Cancer Centres treats self-paying patients and those with health insurance. Treatment is also available to patients referred by an NHS Trust.

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