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The NHS’s national cancer director will today announce that an NHS state of the art proton beam therapy machine for cancer is set to treat the first patient in England at The Christie in Manchester this month, marking a major milestone for NHS care.
Speaking at Britain Against Cancer in London, Cally Palmer will also announce NHS England’s £130 million investment to radically upgrade radiotherapy equipment has already funded 80 new or upgraded LINAC radiotherapy machines, which will transform cancer treatment across England.
Around 4 in 10 of all NHS cancer patients are treated with radiotherapy, which typically uses high-energy radiation from a machine called a linear accelerator (LINAC). Radiotherapy is one of the three main cancer treatments, alongside cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
Over the last two years older LINAC equipment being used by hospitals across the country has been upgraded or replaced, ensuring patients get access to the latest leading-edge technology regardless of where they live.
The Christie opened their NHS proton beam therapy centre earlier this year, and the first patient is already undergoing preparation for their treatment this month.
The Christie is the first NHS treatment centre in England to offer this treatment for patients, with University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust following in summer 2020. When complete they will each treat up to 750 patients every year.
Cally Palmer, national cancer director for NHS England said: “There have been huge advances in precision cancer treatment which hundreds of thousands of patients across the UK are now benefiting from.
“The first NHS patient undergoing high energy proton beam therapy in England marks a major milestone for the NHS and, as the NHS develops a long term plan for the future, it also marks the end of the first phase of the plans to radically transform cancer treatment across the country.”
Chief Executive of The Christie, Roger Spencer said: “To be just days away from offering high energy proton beam therapy to patients in the UK for the very first time is really exciting. Patients will benefit hugely from having the service available in Manchester bringing treatment closer for them and their families who currently have to travel abroad, and resulting in less upheaval during what is undoubtedly an extremely stressful time in their lives.”
Proton beam therapy is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets certain cancers very precisely, increasing success rates and reducing side-effects.
It targets tumours with less damage to surrounding healthy tissue and is particularly appropriate for certain cancers in children who are at risk of lasting damage to organs that are still growing.
Other patients have been identified and are currently in the complex planning phase with clinicians at The Christie, to determine the best date for their first treatment.
Proton beam therapy has been offered overseas to NHS patients who are eligible for treatment in England since 2008 in a programme that has to date supported approximately 1,000 patients. Together with the Department of Health, NHS England is funding two world class centres in Manchester and London for NHS patients to be treated in the UK.
Accommodation will be available for patients and carers coming from outside the immediate vicinity of the proton beam therapy centre.