We're celebrating 25 years of Proton Beam Therapy
Posted 18th September 2014
The only one of its kind in the country, The National Centre for Eye Proton Therapy marks 25 years of a revolutionary eye cancer treatment at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre will celebrate a quarter of a century of Proton Beam Therapy today (18th September), a revolutionary treatment which has saved the eyes of thousands of patients across the world, offering an effective alternative to having the eye removed.
The eye proton therapy service at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, was the first of its kind in the UK when it launched in 1989, with funding from cancer research groups and local charities. Since its launch, The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre has become internationally-renowned for this service. The National Centre for Eye Proton Therapy – the newly renamed suite – attracts patients from across the UK, Europe and further afield and has treated more than 2,000 patients since it opened its doors.
As it celebrates 25 years of service, Julie Massey, general manager of radiation services at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, explained: “The proton beam therapy that The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre offers is a specialist type of radiotherapy for eye tumour patients. Proton beam therapy is a type of radiotherapy that delivers very precisely targeted beams of protons. This is a highly exact method and minimises the risk of side-effects in other tissue, which is particularly beneficial for cancer in small, but highly complex areas like the eye.
“Currently, we are the only trust in the UK with the ability to offer this life changing treatment. Before it was introduced, removing the patient’s eye was often the only option. We are really proud to be celebrating our anniversary in a recently-refurbished suite and announcing the new name – The National Centre for Eye Proton Therapy - which reflects the fact that this is a national service, and the only centre in the country to offer this highly specialised technology.”
The refurbishment of The National Centre for Eye Proton Therapy in 2013 made the space larger and more comforting for patients. It included the installation of a state-of-the-art new treatment chair, which took over five months to build and is one of only three of its kind in the world and the first in the UK.
Julie Massey continued: “Our chief focus in giving the suite a make-over was to improve patient experience. Patients often travel a long way from home to receive treatment at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, our job is to make them feel as welcome as possible. We go that extra mile, and the patient feedback on the standard of care and the personalised service we offer has been really good.”
The 25th anniversary and renaming celebration will be attended by those that have received Proton Beam Therapy at the Centre over the last quarter of a century. The Lord Mayor of the Wirral will also be there to officially unveil the new name. Pictures of the suite over the last 25 years will be on display to illustrate the huge strides the Centre has made in bringing this unique treatment to the UK.
Lady Ruth Hawley, who was treated at the Centre in February this year , commented: “This is a splendid way to celebrate 25 years of an exceptional service. I travelled from Salisbury for my treatment, which was my only hope of keeping my eye. The staff welcomed me so warmly, and they provided such a superb standard of care; nothing was too much trouble.”
The bespoke treatment chair used in the delivery of proton therapy and a recent refurbishment of the area was made possible by donations to The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, including a significant donation from Simplyhealth.
What is Proton Beam Therapy?
- Proton beam therapy is a type of radiotherapy that delivers very precisely targeted beams of protons, which are the positively-charged particles within an atom. The advantage over traditional x-ray radiotherapy is that protons stop at the target site, whereas x-rays lose their radiation more gradually. This minimises the risk of side-effects in other tissue, which is particularly beneficial for cancer in small, but highly complex areas like the eye.
- The beam is low-energy and can travel up to 3cm making it very suitable for treating eyes. It is different from the high-energy proton beams that can now be used for tumours inside the body.
- Prior to their introduction at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, cyclotrons – the machines that produce protons – were only really found in high-tech physics facilities.
- Proton beam therapy is used to treat those with conditions that are difficult to treat by alternative means – for example, because it would mean removing the whole eye. They include melanoma of the iris, tumours near the optic nerve and very large tumours at the front of the eye.
- NHS patients are referred by the UK’s four specialist eye cancer centres in London, Liverpool, Sheffield and Glasgow.