The NHS Proton Beam Therapy Programme

The NHS Proton Beam Therapy Programme


>>Viv Parry: In 2013 as part of a major review
of radiotherapy services the government announced an investment of 250 million pounds
in two new high-energy proton beam therapy centres one here at University College Hospital
London and here at The Christie in Manchester.>>Ed Smith: The proton therapy centre here
at The Christie Hospital in Manchester opened in the Autumn of 2018, and treated its’
first patient in December 2018. The proton centre at The Christie in Manchester and the
proton centre at University College London Hospitals will each treat up to 750 patients
per year.>>Viv Parry: so what is proton beam therapy?
It’s a super precise form of radiotherapy that
only delivers its lethal payload of radiation in the tumour and not beyond it.
now for most cancer patients today’s modern x-ray based radiotherapy is so
sophisticated that they don’t need proton beam therapy.Its’ advantages is for a
very select group of patients and for them it can make all the difference. For
example, children with brain cancer hitting only the tumour means that they
avoid potential side-effects such as learning disabilities. And here’s the
Science; conventional x-rays hurl little packets of light called photons in the
direction of the tumour.A bit like throwing a small ball at a big thick
jelly. They enter fast, get slowed down a bit and pass on out the other side. Even with
very modern precision radiotherapy x-rays can still cause damage to all the tissues
they pass through. Protons are particles from deep inside an atom. Now imagine your jelly
again and throwing a tiny but really heavy ball at it. Protons don’t travel as far and
quickly come to a dead halt, but their unique trick is that they release a sudden burst
of energy as they stop. That the lethal payload bit. Turning this science into a clinical facility
is a huge undertaking. To hurl protons at a tumour you need a cyclotron. It’s only the
size of a big car but it weighs about the same as a Boeing 747. Inside the cyclotron
are high-powered magnets which strip protons from hydrogen atoms in water before supercharging
them. These amazing 360 degree gantries deliver the proton therapy, they’re hugely complex
hundred-ton machines each as tall as a three-story house. You won’t be surprised to know that
there’s quite a lot of specialist reinforced concrete 17 foot thick in places weighing
one and a half times the weight of an aircraft carrier. And in London there’s an additional
challenge much of it is being built underground. So these two centres
are a triumph of science engineering, and construction.>>Dr Adrian Crellin: It’s an incredibly
exciting moment for us in radiotherapy treatment and in
actual fact for history of cancer treatment in this country. Modern radiotherapy is incredibly
efficient incredibly sophisticated but proton beam
therapy takes us just to a quite new place for highly selected patients. But
for children in particular most of their tissues are very sensitive to standard
low doses of radiotherapy and for them this makes the whole difference between into their
future and the long-term side effects and they’re outcomes, so that to me is the difference
between very good and excellent.

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