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Proton Beam Therapy now being offered by the NHS in Manchester

The new £125m NHS Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) Centre at The Christie hospital in Manchester is now treating patients. Opened towards the end of last year, The Christie’s Proton Beam centre is the first NHS PBT treatment centre in England. It is also the newest and most up-to-date centre in the world. 


NHS England says a number of patients are now undergoing PBT at The Christie and more patients have been identified and are currently in the planning phase with medical staff to determine the best date for their first treatment. 


Proton Beam Therapy is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets cancers very precisely, increasing success rates and reducing side effects. This makes it a particularly ideal treatment for certain cancers in children who are at risk of lasting damage to organs that are still growing.


Proton Beam therapy has been offered overseas to NHS patients who are eligible for treatment in England since 2008 in a programme that has to date supported approximately 1,000 patients. However, this is not ideal. Not only is this very expensive and disruptive for the patient and their families, but expecting cancer patients with a low immune system to travel overseas leaves them vulnerable to infection.


Together with the Department of Health, NHS England is funding two world-class centres in Manchester and London for NHS patients to be treated in the UK. A second is due to open at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in summer 2020. It is expected that they will each treat up to 750 patients every year.


At Healthcare Estates in October last year, Jason Dawson – Capital, Estates and Facilities Director at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, explained the complexity of this project from an engineering point of view. Among the key statistics; the project was 10-12 years in planning, it involved 20,000 tonnes of concrete and the largest crane in the country to lift the 90 tonne cyclotron – which is the key piece of equipment – into place. This all had to be achieved on a live site in a built-up area. 


A research room has also been built as part of the PBT centre, to provide physicists and researchers from the university a base from which to carry out essential research into future healthcare solutions.