A teenager from Sussex with a rare brain tumour today becomes one of the first patients at the UK’s brand new NHS Proton Beam Therapy Centre.
The new facility at the Christie Hospital in Manchester is the country’s first and means cancer patients for whom proton treatment is deemed necessary will no longer have to go abroad for care.
Mason Kettley, from Angmering, a 15-year-old GCSE student, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October.
He said: “I’m nervous about what is going to happen, but I’m also excited to start this treatment. I’m so grateful to all the doctors involved in my care and I’d love to do what they do one day – it will be my way of giving something back.”
Consultant clinical oncologist Gillian Whitfield is leading Mason’s care at the Christie.
“Mason’s tumour is a low grade [slow growing] tumour with a high chance of cure,” she said.
“For Mason, in comparison to conventional radiotherapy, proton beam therapy should carry a lower risk of some important long term side effects of treatment, particularly effects on short-term memory and learning ability and the risk over the next eight decades of the radiation causing other tumours.”
Proton therapy hit the headlines five years ago when the parents of a young cancer patient, Ashya King, took him from Southampton Hospital without his doctor’s approval, because proton treatment was not then available in the UK.
It sparked an international manhunt which led to Ashya’s mother and father being arrested in Spain. The family was eventually allowed to travel to Prague for Ashya to receive the therapy. He is now nine years old and clear of his cancer.
His father Brett said having an NHS proton centre in the UK will be a game-changer for children like Ashya.
“It’s just nice to know, that very ill patients, who’ve got cancer don’t now have to travel long distances to get necessary treatment, they can just get it locally there in Manchester,” added Mr King. “It’ll have fewer side effects and for children it’s more beneficial than normal.”
Juliette Harrison believes her decision to pay for proton treatment in Prague saved her life and wants the Manchester centre to become the first of many in Britain.
“I hope it’ll become more widely available because it’s the best option for some people, so that they can be tumour free, or at least the tumour doesn’t grow any more,” she said.
The NHS England-funded centre in Manchester opened last year and is the first NHS treatment centre in England.
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.