What is Proton Beam Therapy?
Proton beam therapy is different type of radiotherapy. It uses a high energy beam of protons rather than high energy X-rays to deliver a dose of radiotherapy for patients with cancer.
Which cancers does it work best on?
Some very rare cancers including tumours affecting the base of skull or spine can be treated with high-energy proton therapy.
Proton beam treatment can be a more effective form of therapy because it directs the all important radiation treatment to precisely where it is needed with minimal damage to surrounding tissue. The treatment is therefore particularly suitable to complex childhood cancers.
Background to sending patients overseas
In April 2008 the National Specialised Commissioning Team [NSCT] established a programme to send patients overseas for proton beam therapy. A clinical panel reviews individual cases. If a patient’s consultant feels that proton beam therapy might be a suitable treatment for one of their patients they need to complete the NSCT Proton Therapy Referral form (linked to this page) and submit it to the panel. The panel will then decide whether the case is suitable for proton beam therapy and if so confirm back to the patient’s doctor that a referral overseas can be made [which will then be funded by the NHS]. Further details on the diagnostic categories that have been agreed will be funded as the very highest priority for referral for proton treatment abroad can be found in the Guidance document.
What will the NHS fund?
Treatment will be for a number of weeks, patients and their families may be away from home for 8-10
weeks. The NSCT will fund patient's travel and the costs of accommodation plus some other costs.
More information on exactly what will be funded by the NHS can be found in our policy document (linked to this page).
The NSCT commissions services on behalf of patients in England. For Proton Beam Therapy the NSCT also commissions on behalf of the National Services Division Scotland and, by agreement, for individual patients on behalf of the NHS in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Who organises the patient’s treatment overseas?
The patient's hospital need to support the patient and family if a referral abroad is made. The burden of organisation must not be left to families. The guidance documents set out what needs to be done. If further advice is needed then do please contact the NSCT.
The NSCT and the Proton Therapy Clinical Reference Panel aim to continue to expand the programme in future years.
Overseas Centres treating UK patients
When a patient is approved for referral abroad the patient’s consultant will be advised which overseas service the patient should be referred to. The guidance documents linked to this page will explain the programme in detail and provide further information about PBT.
A report published in February 2013 summarising the feedback from patients surveyed about their experiences of undergoing PBT abroad can be found here.
If you require any further information please contact the Proton Beam Therapy leads at the NSCT:
Sarah Watson, Senior Commissioning Manager: 020 7932 3953
Julie Partridge, Project Officer, PBT: 020 7932 3937
The Clinical lead for the programme is Dr Adrian Crellin who can be contacted as follows:
Dr Adrian Crellin,
Consultant Clinical Oncologist,
Chairman NSCT Proton Clinical Reference Panel,
St James' Institute of Oncology,
Level 4 Bexley Wing,
St James''s University Hospital,
LEEDS LS9 7TF.
Telephone: 0113 2068602
Fax: 0113 2067561
Plans for UK Proton Beam Therapy Centres
The Department of Health has announced which two Trusts in England have been chosen to develop Proton Beam Therapy centres. The two Trusts are The Christie NHS Foundation Trust hospital in Manchester and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Given the complex nature of the treatment and facilities, Proton Beam Therapy won’t be fully available in England until 2017. Until then the NSCT will continue to fund patients to receive treatment abroad.
More information about the announcement can be found on the Department of Health’s website:
Charities supporting patients travelling for Proton Beam Therapy
Links to Charities known to support patients and families travelling for Proton Beam Therapy are available at: http://www.clicsargent.org.uk/content/where-get-help
Caudwell Children (www.caudwellchildren.com) is a national charity providing practical and emotional support for sick and disabled children.
The charity also delivers fundraising campaigns to fund specific costs associated with specialist overseas treatments.
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