£250m centre brings Proton Beam Therapy to the UK

Partnership offers world-class approach to the treatment of complex cancers

An artist\'s impression of how the new PBT centre in London will look

Architects have been appointed to work on the development of a £250m project to bring the world’s most-advanced radiotherapy technology to the UK.

Scott Tallon Walker Architects will work with Edward Williams Architects and Tsoi Kobus and Associates on the plans, which are a joint scheme between University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

This partnership has the potential to make a significant difference to the lives of hundreds of patients every year and provides an opportunity for the NHS to become a world leader in paediatric radiotherapy and to gain an international profile in many complex adult cancers

The development in central London will incorporate Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) equipment after the Government this week announced millions of pounds worth of funding to bring the innovative technology to the UK.

A type of radiotherapy, PBT uses a precision high-energy beam of particles to destroy cancer cells. The treatment is particularly suitable for complex childhood cancers; increasing success rates; and reducing side-effects, such as deafness, loss of IQ and secondary cancers. It can also be used to treat brain cancers, head and neck cancers and sarcomas.

Currently patients who would benefit from PBT treatment are sent to medical centres abroad, but, once up and running, the central London service will enable unparalleled access for patients from all across the UK, with around 1,500 people being treated every year.

It is expected that the building will take around five years to complete.

Irradiating healthy tissues in children and teenagers can result in significant long-term effects. PBT significantly reduces the chance of such side effects occurring

Commenting on the plans, Sir Robert Naylor, chief executive of UCLH, said: “This partnership has the potential to make a significant difference to the lives of hundreds of patients every year, particularly children and teenagers. It provides an opportunity for the NHS to become a world leader in paediatric radiotherapy and to gain an international profile in many complex adult cancers.”

The service will be delivered from the trust’s campus in the heart of the capital where it enjoys a close collaboration with University College London on ground-breaking research projects. The site has direct access to the trust’s existing radiotherapy department and will be a stone’s throw from the new University College Hospital Macmilan Cancer Centre, which opened this week.

Commenting on the impact PBT will have on cancer services and treatment processes in the UK, Dr Yen-Ch’ing Chang, UCLH lead on the technology, said: "The main advantage is that less normal tissue is irradiated. This is a particular advantage in children and young adults. Irradiating healthy tissues in children and teenagers can result in significant long-term effects, such as problems with growth, IQ, development through puberty, hormone deficiencies and fertility, as well as an increased risk of the development of a second cancer. PBT significantly reduces the chance of such side effects occurring.”

We have always said that it is patient outcomes that matter, and to get the best for patients we must always be looking to push the boundaries

And Katie Swain, whose daughter, Matilda, was referred from UCLH to Jacksonville in Florida to undergo PBT treatment, said it would have made a big difference if she had been able to have the procedure in London.

“It would take the pressure off parents and enable children to carry on with a normal school life and have the support of their friends and family close by,” she added.

Matilda, five, went to America to be treated for retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. Her mother said: “The radiation would have gone into her brain if she had been treated with conventional radiotherapy. It might have affected her IQ or caused additional tumours. The more you can minimise the exposure to radiation, the lower the risk of there being further problems.”

Commenting on the Government’s investment in PBT, Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said today: “Developing a national PBT service is vital to ensuring our cancer facilities are world class. We have always said that it is patient outcomes that matter, and to get the best for patients we must always be looking to push the boundaries.

Once this service is in place, The Christie and UCLH will boast unparalleled cancer facilities. It will mean more patients will be able to get this treatment, including those for whom travelling abroad for long periods is not possible

“In addition to improved success rates, PBT reduces the side effects which patients, particularly children, can suffer as a result of traditional forms of cancer treatment.

“Once this service is in place, The Christie and UCLH will boast unparalleled cancer facilities. It will mean more patients will be able to get this treatment, including those for whom travelling abroad for long periods is not possible.”

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