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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Cancer patients in Wales set to receive proton beam therapy on NHS

Written by Adam Hale

Cancer patients in Wales are to begin receiving proton therapy treatment through the NHS after a treatment centre was granted permission by the country's health boards.

The Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales was the first to offer the treatment in the UK when it opened in April, but until now it has only been available to private patients.

On Tuesday the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee, responsible for services offered by Wales' seven local health boards, gave approval for the centre in Newport to accept patients referred through NHS Wales.

The centre, run by Proton Partners International, is expected to begin treating NHS patients immediately.

It is the second in the UK to allow NHS proton beam therapy following the Christie cancer centre in Manchester, which will be the first to give the treatment to a cancer patient in England next week.

Previously NHS patients in England and Wales had been forced to travel abroad to receive the treatment at clinics in Europe and the US.

Professor Roger Taylor at the Rutherford centre, said: "Proton therapy is not a panacea for all types of cancer, however we have seen where it can be beneficial in areas such as brain tumours or cancers of the spine or head and neck, and working with the NHS means that adult patients in Wales will now have an option to be treated closer to home."

The Welsh Government's health secretary, Vaughan Gething, said: "I welcome the news that the Rutherford Cancer Centre will be a referral option for adult patients in Wales.

"It is good to see government, health service and industry collaborating for the benefit of patients in Wales and to make an important contribution to the life sciences sector, which is an area of strength for Wales."

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.

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is due to be the next to offer NHS proton beam treatment in summer 2020.

Rutherford Cancer Centres in Reading and Northumberland will open proton beam therapy suites next year, with each unit equipped to treat up to 500 patients a year.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales.