Proton beam therapy to be developed under £56m cancer fund

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Media captionWhat is proton-beam therapy?

Research funding of £56m to help cancer patients has been hailed as a “new era” for radiotherapy treatment.

Cancer Research UK will set up RadNet with seven UK centres to develop advanced radiotherapy techniques and reduce side-effects.

Manchester will get £16.5m to develop pioneering tumour-blasting techniques such as proton beam therapy.

Cambridge, Oxford, Leeds and Glasgow universities and two London centres will get the money “imminently”.

The family of six-year-old Skye Brierley, of Blackpool, Lancashire has welcomed the radiotherapy investment in Manchester.

She was diagnosed with a rare and inoperable brain tumour aged four and had to have 31 rounds of proton beam therapy in the USA as it was not available in the UK at the time.

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Skye Brierley, of Blackpool, Lancashire has had 31 rounds of advanced proton beam therapy which has helped stabilise her rare cancer

Skye’s cancer is now stable thanks to the treatment she has returned to school.

Her father Michael Brierley said: “Skye is living proof of how effective proton therapy treatment can be.

“You don’t expect to be told your child has cancer – it was devastating for all the family.”

He added that “things could have turned out very differently”.

Proton beam therapy will be developed in Manchester first followed by a centre in London.

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Skye Brierley has returned to school after having proton beam therapy in the United States

The funding in Manchester will also support the development of pioneering MR Linac machines and flash radiotherapy which delivers ultrahigh radiation doses in fractions of a second.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Radiotherapy is a cornerstone of cancer medicine, with around three in 10 patients receiving it as part of their primary treatment.

“The launch of our network marks a new era of radiotherapy research in the UK.

“Scientists will combine advances in our understanding of cancer biology with cutting-edge technology to make this treatment more precise and effective than ever before.”

Radiotherapy blasts tumours with X-ray radiation, killing cancer cells by irreversibly damaging their DNA.

Researchers in the new hub will also focus on reducing the long-term side effects associated with the treatment.

Radiation can produce a sunburn-like effect on the skin as it passes through and cause hair loss.

Some £13 million of the money has been allocated to form new research groups and fund additional PhD students in Manchester, London and Cambridge.

The Manchester centre is a partnership between the University of Manchester, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Cancer Research UK and Manchester Cancer Research Centre.

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