Hospitals to gain proton therapy

A cancer treatment that more accurately targets the affected areas will be provided in England for NHS patients, the health secretary says.

Andrew Lansley is due to announce £150m funding for proton beam therapy as an alternative to X-ray radio therapy.

Currently patients are being sent abroad for the treatment.

He will tell Britain Against Cancer delegates in Westminster later that proton treatment targets tumours while reducing damage to healthy tissues.

Increased survival rates

Proton beam therapy uses charged particles instead of X-rays to deliver radiotherapy for cancer patients.

Mr Lansley estimates it could benefit up to 1,500 NHS patients per year and three hospitals are being considered to trial the treatment.

The potential trial sites are the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Experts will then assess if these are the best locations for the therapy.

At a speech to the Britain Against Cancer Conference on Tuesday, Mr Lansley is due to outline how the therapy will be provided in England to benefit thousands of patients.

He said: "We want to make sure that cancer services in England are world class and that NHS patients receive the best quality treatments that are available."

Hearing loss minimised

He added: "For too long our cancer survival rates have lagged behind other comparable countries.

"I am determined that we will do everything we can to change that and this new investment will help significantly.

"This new treatment will particularly help children who suffer from cancer as they will receive better quality treatment and their chances of experiencing side effects such as hearing loss and reduced IQ will be minimised."

A scheme was set up in 2008 to send selected NHS patients abroad for the therapy in Switzerland, Florida and Oklahoma.

So far 80 patients have received the treatment abroad on the NHS. The government has pledged to increase this to 400 patients per year by 2013/2014.

It is hoped the first purpose-built NHS facilities will open in 2016.

The Department of Health said currently there were no proton beam therapy schemes offered in the UK.

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