How the final proton beam therapy room will lookImage copyright PPI
Image caption How the final proton beam therapy room will look

A vital component of the UK’s first proton beam therapy machine is to be delivered to its new home in Newport.

Proton Partners International (PPI) will receive the part that will fire the cancer-treating beam at its Rutherford Cancer Centre on Saturday.

PPI said the UK’s “most-advanced piece of cancer machinery” could transform treatment for 500 patients with hard-to-reach tumours each year.

Currently, treatment is only available in the UK for rare eye cancers.

But the Welsh Government said proton beam therapy will be available at the centre to NHS Wales patients with certain cancers “within the next year”.

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Media captionAnimated graphic comparing traditional radiation treatment with proton beam therapy.

PPI chief executive Mike Moran said it was the “most strategic health project in this country in decades”.

“It’s significant for the people of Wales to have high-energy proton beam therapy available,” he added.

He said the treatment would “certainly improve” clinical outcomes and the experience for patients, who up to now have had to spend up to six weeks abroad to get proton beam therapy.

After its installation, the machine will be up and running next year.

Image caption The cyclotron accelerator needed a crane to be delivered

Analysis by BBC Wales health correspondent Owain Clarke

This is certainly a coup for those trying to make Wales a hub for health innovation and research.

But it is unclear how many of the 500 patients a year expected to be treated at the privately run centre will be from the Welsh NHS.

That is because the NHS in England is currently building two similar proton beam centres “in-house”.

Located at established hospitals (in London and Manchester), some argue they’d be better placed to provide more comprehensive, “wrap-around” care than would be possible at a stand-alone centre.

So, the NHS Wales could, in theory, decide it would be better to pay to send Welsh NHS patients to those centres once they open.

Proton beam therapy is a highly-targeted type of radiotherapy which can treat hard-to-reach cancers, such as spinal tumours, with a lower risk of damaging the surrounding tissue and causing side effects.

About 140 patients a year are sent abroad from across the NHS – mostly to the US and Switzerland – at a cost of around £114,000 each.

Experts have said the proton beam clinic in Newport could half that cost, while also allowing patients to remain close to their families while receiving treatment.

Image copyright PPI
Image caption The cyclotron accelerator is the “key component” for the proton beam machine, PPI has said

The Rutherford Cancer Centre opened in February and receives referrals for conventional cancer treatments.

PPI is building three more proton beam centres in the UK – in Northumberland, Reading and Liverpool.

The firm has received £10m from the Welsh Government’s Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund.


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