Clinics set for Manchester and London
NHS experts have revealed that proton beam therapy used to treat children with brain cancer will be available in the UK by 2018.
Confirmation of the plans follows the wake of Ashya King, the five year old whose parents took him to the Czech Republic for the treatment. Dr Adrian Crellin, of NHS England has now stated that clinics in both London and Manchester will open their doors to patients in 2018, with some children suffering medulloblastoma brain tumours being offered the therapy.
Proton treatment is said to allow more targeted radiation to tumours while minimising harmful radiation to surrounding healthy tissues, with the therapy thought to be more beneficial to children as it offers some hope of reducing long-term side effects of radiation. However doctors have warned that cases would be considered on individual merit, as factors determining whether proton beam therapy offered advantages over traditional radiotherapy were complex.
Some 100 children were granted NHS approval to attend centres in the US and Switzerland last year, with NHS authorities saying they would only fund treatment where they had established links.
Doctors stressed that coordinating the exact time of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation were key – so the time taken to travel abroad and set up individual treatment could lead to more harm than good. It is hoped the new UK centres will offer therapy for certain cancers that are currently too risky to treat because of how critical timing is to the success of treatment.
Dr Crellin told BBC News “Commercial pressures, particularly in the US, may have lead to a large number of patients being treated where there is less certain evidence of gain. For example with prostate cancer, there is no strong evidence this treatment has benefits over conventional treatment. The important thing for doctors here is to be able to trust and know the standards of care are good elsewhere.”