UK needs 18 proton beam therapy machines

Conference told investment in latest radiotherapy technology is crucial to put UK at forefront of cancer treatment

A proton beam therapy centre being built in Northumberland is one of three planned in the UK by Proton Partners International to boost care

  • UK currently has plans for two proton beam therapy machines
  • Experts predict the country will need another 16 to meet demand for the high-tech cancer treatment
  • New, more-compact equipment is making appliances more affordable for cash-strapped NHS

If the UK doesn’t make the right decisions today, we will again fall behind in the quality of cancer treatment we will be able to offer cancer patients in the future

The UK will require 18 proton beam therapy machines to meet rising demand for this more-targeted form of cancer treatment.

Speaking at The Proton Congress in London recently, Professor Karol Sikora, chief medical officer at Proton Partners International, said: “The NHS estimates that just 1.5% of cancer patients require proton beam therapy, whereas in the US it is believed that 20% of patients would benefit from the treatment and European studies indicate an estimate of 10-15%.

“In the UK we should work with the 10% figure.

The estimated demand for proton machines is based on a capacity per unit of 500 patients every year, and therefore we can calculate that the machine requirement for the UK is around 18.

“This figure is far more than the two currently planned by the NHS, which will simply not meet rising demand.”

To help address this gap, Proton Partners International is in the process of building three centres in the UK – in Newport, Northumberland and at a third location yet to be announced.

“The machines that deliver proton beam therapy are generally very large and expensive,” said Sikora.

“In the last decade, however, we have seen a gradual improvement in these machines and the introduction of more-compact models onto the market means the treatment is becoming more accessible and affordable.

We have seen a gradual improvement in these machines and the introduction of more-compact models onto the market means the treatment is becoming more accessible and affordable

“Over 1,000 clinical studies are in progress and it’s likely that further data on long-term toxicity will support a major expansion in this area.”

He added: “In the UK there is a huge need to upgrade the routine radiotherapy machines, as many are more than a decade old, but capital is short. We need imaginative new ways to fund state-of-the-art cancer care in the UK and abroad.

“If the UK doesn’t make the right decisions today, we will again fall behind in the quality of cancer treatment we will be able to offer cancer patients in the future.”

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