Proton beam centres to be opened
The UK is to get its first three proton beam therapy centres in what is being hailed as a cancer treatment milestone.
Cardiff-based Proton Partners International Ltd is to open the treatment centres in Cardiff, London and Northumberland by 2017 and the first - Cardiff - will be operational next year.
The announcement comes not long after the parents of brain cancer survivor Ashya King told how the five year old made a ''miracle'' recovery after receiving proton beam therapy which was initially not available to him on the NHS.
Brett and Naghmeh King sparked an international manhunt after taking their son out of hospital in Southampton without doctors' consent.
The Proton Therapy Centre (PTC) in Prague, where Ashya received the treatment last year, said it was ''thrilled'' to hear news that a recent scan showed no sign of a tumour.
The new UK centres will be available for NHS patients from England, Scotland and Wales, medically-insured private patients and self-paying patients.
Proton Partners International has been formed following discussions between Professor Sir Chris Evans, the life sciences entrepreneur, and UK life sciences and healthcare investors on addressing cancer treatment in the UK.
Institutional and private investors have committed to almost £100 million equity finance in the company.
Professor Gordon McVie, senior consultant at the European Institute of Oncology, has been appointed chairman, and Professor Karol Sikora has agreed to become chief medical adviser to the company, alongside a range of renowned cancer and healthcare experts.
Prof McVie said: "This is an exciting and important development of the provision of cancer treatment in the UK. As things stand, patients who can benefit from this treatment have to go abroad for treatment, often at great expense to the NHS.
"The creation of these centres will go a long way to ensuring the very best of treatment is available in the UK."
Sir Chris said: "We are delighted that the UK's first centre will be based in Cardiff and Wales Life Sciences Investment Fund is proud to support this breakthrough. There are more than 150,000 people treated for cancer each year in the UK and the demand for treatment is growing.
"It is anticipated that NHS demand for proton beam therapy abroad will reach 1,500 patients by 2017. Proton Partners will be able to play a leading part in helping meet demand in the UK as of next year."
In addition to state of the art Proton Partners' treatment services, the Cardiff centre will provide conventional radiotherapy, chemotherapy and supportive care. This could then be offered through other centres.
Proton beam therapy is a highly-targeted type of radiotherapy that can treat hard-to-reach cancers, such as spinal tumours, with a lower risk of damaging the surrounding tissue and causing side effects.
In the future, Proton Partners International intends to develop further proton therapy centres in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The Government has announced that it is to create two NHS proton beam therapy units which will open in 2018.