A teenager with a rare brain tumor is set to receive proton beam therapy, as one of the first patients to receive the treatment in the UK, according to the Independent. He is the first UK patient to go public with the treatment.
The procedure will take place at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, the newest proton beam therapy center in the world, since its opening in August of last year. Until now, UK patients have had to go overseas for the targeted therapy, which can shrink tumors without many of the risks of traditional radiation therapy.
A national panel of experts concluded that 15-year-old Mason Kettley’s brain tumor, called a benign pilomyxoid astrocytoma, would be most appropriately treated with proton beam therapy.
Kettley said doctors told him that the targeted radiotherapy was a better choice than chemotherapy due to his age.
Proton beam therapy is more precisely directed, and reaches tumors more precisely than conventional radiotherapy, with more limited effects on the surrounding area. As a result, it’s ideal for patients with tumors in areas like the brain or spinal cord, and for younger patients with developing tissue who could face long-term side effects decades later.
“With proton beam therapy, compared to conventional radiotherapy, there is less dose to surrounding normal tissues and less risk of permanent long-term effects of treatment,” said consultant clinical oncologist Gillian Whitfield, who is in charge of Kettley’s treatment. “This is particularly important for children and teenagers with curable tumors, who will survive decades after treatment and are at much greater risk of serious long-term effects of treatment than adults.
While UK patients have been able to go abroad for the therapy since 2008, some have been unable to travel due to their condition, or have faced a pressing need for the treatment. A second treatment center is set to open in 2020, at London’s University College Hospital.
Whitfield said that Kettley’s tumor is low grade, and has a “high chance of cure.”
Proton beam therapy initially emerged from particle physics research in the early twentieth century. Harvard particle physicist Robert R. Wilson first proposed using proton beams in medicine in 1946, and the method was first used to control metastatic breast cancer in the mid-1950s.
In the US, the treatment received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in 1988, with the world’s first hospital-based proton therapy treatment center opening in California in 1991. It’s been used to treat over 160,000 people worldwide.