Proton beam therapy comes to the UK

by Rosemary Wormington Head of Support, Brain Tumour Support ​ This month, The Christie in Manchester has been gearing up to receive the first brain tumour patients to be offered proton beam therapy treatment in the UK.

Up until now those patients meeting the necessary criteria for proton beam therapy would have been sent to hospitals in either Germany or America. 

Proton beam therapy is, understandably, a hot topic of discussion within the brain tumour community. With the last truly major breakthrough in treatment being the discovery of temozolomide nearly 30 years ago, we have all been looking and hoping for a further development to help treat patients diagnosed with this devastating disease

Unfortunately proton beam therapy is neither new nor more effective than any existing radiotherapy treatments.

It has been used in a small number of countries for over two decades and whilst the limited research that has been done suggests that the advantage of proton beam therapy is that it does less harm to healthy tissue, there is no evidence to show that it is any more effective than the regular radiotherapy treatments used across the world.

Also  proton beam therapy is only effective on a small number of brain tumour patients mostly children and young adults. The  tumour needs to be relatively small and clearly defined: if the tumour is large and/or ‘spaghetti like’ the treatment is not as effective as standard radiotherapy. This is of course not what patients and their loved ones want to hear. Sadly we are still waiting for the next major development. 

Having said that, for the small number of brain tumour patients for whom proton beam therapy is appropriate, the advantages of not having to travel abroad are substantial.  The  plan is that all patients needing proton beam therapy will eventually be treated in the UK either at Manchester or at a second proton beam therapy unit currently being built in London. That can only be good news for patients in the UK.

If you or someone you know has any questions relating to proton beam therapy and a brain tumour, then please do discuss this with the hospital medical team.

If you would like support or information on coping with a brain tumour diagnose then please do contact our support line 01454 422701 or

Lancaster House, Bristol Road,

Thornbury, South Gloucestershire 

BS35 3JA  United Kingdom

Registered Charity No. 1163856

Company No. 9718307

01454 414355

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