A 15-year-old boy with a rare brain tumour will today begin world leading treatment at the NHS’s new Proton Beam Therapy centre at The Christie hospital in Manchester.
Mason Kettley, from Angmering, West Sussex, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October.
Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets cancers very precisely, increasing success rates and reducing side effects, which makes it an ideal treatment for certain cancers in children who are at risk of lasting damage to organs that are still growing. The state-of-the-art treatment is only available in a handful of countries around the world.
The Christie’s Proton Beam centre is the newest and most up to date centre in the world. Mason is currently still attending school and is in the middle of preparing for his GCSEs next year. His experiences as a patient have made him decide he would like to train as a doctor. Mason said: “I’m nervous about what is going to happen, but I’m also excited to start this treatment. I’m so grateful to all the doctors involved in my care and I’d love to do what they do one day – it will be my way of giving something back.”
Following investigations and scans at Worthing Hospital near his home in Angmering in West Sussex, it became clear the tumour – a pilomyxoid astrocytoma – was growing in critical areas of his brain, making it inoperable due to the risk of blindness and other catastrophic complications. Professor Stephen Powis, medical director for the NHS in England said: “This is a hugely exciting development for the NHS and we are delighted that we are able to provide this life changing treatment for patients like Mason. “The long term plan for the NHS last week set out a range of plans that will radically transform cancer care across the country, benefitting hundreds of thousands of patients in the next five years.”
The NHS England-funded centre opened last year and is the first NHS treatment centre in England. A second is due to open at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in summer 2020. It is expected that they will each treat up to 750 patients every year. A number of patients are currently undergoing PBT at The Christie and more patients have been identified and are currently in the planning phase with medical staff , to determine the best date for their first treatment.
Proton beam therapy has been offered overseas to NHS patients who are eligible for treatment in England since 2008 in a programme that has to date supported approximately 1,000 patients. Together with the Department of Health, NHS England is funding two world class centres in Manchester and London for NHS patients to be treated in the UK.
Accommodation will be available for patients and carers coming from outside the immediate vicinity of the proton beam therapy centre. Consultant clinical oncologist Gillian Whitfield is leading Mason’s care at The Christie. She said: “With PBT, compared to conventional radiotherapy, there is less dose to surrounding normal tissues and less risk of permanent long term effects of treatment. This is particularly important for children and teenagers with curable tumours, who will survive decades after treatment and are at much greater risk of serious long term effects of treatment than adults.
“Mason’s tumour is a low grade (slow growing) tumour with a high chance of cure. For Mason, in comparison to conventional radiotherapy, PBT should carry a lower risk of some important long term side effects of treatment, particularly effects on short term memory and learning ability and the risk over the next eight decades of the radiation causing other tumours.”
Mason is one of the first patients to undergo proton beam therapy on the NHS in England following the completion of the £125 million centre last year. The first patient, who is still undergoing treatment, did not want publicity.