The therapy – Proton Beam Therapy – is a particularly important form of cancer treatment as it targets tumours more precisely with less damage to surrounding tissues. This can improve the quality of life following cancer treatment, reduces side effects, especially for children and, because the NHS will be able to treat more people, it will save lives.
Currently, the NHS sends children and adults needing Proton Beam Therapy to the United States, but from 2018 it will be offered to up to 1,500 cancer patients at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London.
The Prime Minister’s commitment to increasing access to advanced radiotherapy treatments will significantly improve the experience for patients and their families who currently have to travel long distances for treatment.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said:
"We want the NHS to have the best cancer treatments available in the world. By investing in Proton Beam Therapy facilities, we will be able to treat more patients in the UK and reduce the stress placed on families who have had to travel to the United States to receive this innovative treatment.
"This is a huge milestone for the NHS – not only will Proton Beam Therapy help save more lives, it will also ensure that patients experience fewer side-effects and have a better quality of life.
National Clinical Director Specialised Services James Palmer said:
"Today’s announcement is very welcome news and will enable us to move ahead with fully equipping the new facilities in Manchester and London. This is a key milestone in being able to offer this important treatment in the UK.
National Clinical Lead for Proton Beam Therapy Adrian Crellin said:
"Whilst we will continue to offer this treatment overseas until the new facilities are built in Manchester and London, I am delighted that we are now a step closer to providing Proton Beam Therapy in the UK. Compared to standard radiotherapy options, Proton Beam Therapy offers the opportunity to reduce the risks of potential side effects such as growth deformity, loss of hearing and lowered IQ, which is a particular consideration when treating children and young people.
Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) is a precise form of radiotherapy that uses charged particles instead of x-rays to deliver a dose of radiotherapy for patients. It can be a more effective form of treatment than conventional radiotherapy because it directs the radiotherapy more precisely with minimal damage to surrounding tissue. Evidence is growing that protons can be effective in treating a number of cancers, in particular children and young people with brain tumours, for whom PBT appears to produce fewer side effects such as secondary cancers, growth deformity, hearing loss and learning difficulties.
As of 1 April 2013, PBT is directly commissioned as a national service by NHS England. Patients who meet the agreed clinical criteria for treatment are currently offered treatment in the United States. This treatment is funded by the NHS. The funding covers treatment costs, travel and accommodation for the patient and their immediate family / parents. The funding does not cover living costs for the family.
In April 2012 the Government announced it would provide public capital for the NHS to build two PBT treatment centres at University College London Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester (the Trusts). The first centre is expected to become operational during the second quarter of 2018. While these facilities are being developed patients will continue to be treated overseas.
The government has today approved the Outline Business Cases for the two schemes, which confirm the funding commitment and the outputs of the projects and authorise the two projects to seek tenders to provide the equipment and works necessary to deliver the facilities.