The youngest patient in the UK to be treated using pioneering proton beam therapy has helped mark the three years since the treatment was made available on the NHS in England. Teddy Slade, who recently celebrated his fourth birthday, was just 18 months old when he underwent proton beam therapy for a rare brain tumour, making him the youngest patient in the country to be treated at the UK’s first NHS high energy centre at the Christie Cancer Centre. After surgery to remove the tumour, Teddy was given proton beam therapy at the newly opened centre at The Christie in Manchester for six and half weeks. Now Teddy, who lives in Stockport with mum and dad, Amy and Dan, only requires regular check-ups to monitor his progress and is enjoying pre-school – and living a full and normal life.
Proton beam therapy 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 therapy uses a beam of protons to irradiate diseased tissue, most often in the treatment of cancer. The chief advantage of proton therapy over other types of external beam radiotherapy is that, as a charged particle, the dose is deposited over a narrow range of depth, and there is minimal entry, exit, or scattered radiation dose.
Teddy’s mum, Amy Slade, said: “A diagnosis like Teddy’s is terrifying and devastating. However, the proton beam centre at The Christie is a place of hope. “It was a huge shock when Teddy was diagnosed as he was so young and to be told he had a brain tumour was absolutely heartbreaking.
“However, the staff at The Christie are amazing. The care that Teddy, and the support our whole family received there, was first-class. We are so very lucky to have this life-saving medical technology in Manchester”.
Proton beam therapy has been funded on the NHS since 2008, but patients had to go abroad to get their treatment. It was only when the Christie’s £125 million centre opened in late 2018 that patients could be treated in the UK. In 2021, the NHS opened a second centre at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust, and between them, the two centres will treat up to 1,300 patients every year.
Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England’s National Cancer Director, said: “Since Teddy first received proton beam therapy treatment at The Christie, over 700 patients in the UK including 300 children, have benefitted from this pioneering treatment in the NHS. “In the last few months we have also opened a second centre at UCLH in London, meaning even more patients now have access to this world-class, innovative care for cancer. “This is a major milestone for the NHS and marks the completion of our plans to deliver proton beam therapy in the UK and transform cancer treatment across the country”.
Gillian Whitfield, Teddy’s consultant at The Christie, said: “It is great to see Teddy doing so well and we were thrilled to be able to help him here at The Christie. “Being able to give patients like Teddy this vital proton beam therapy in the UK is fantastic, as it not only reduces the side effects of treatment, but also means families don’t have to travel abroad as many did before the NHS opened the centre here in Manchester”.
The NHS Long Term Plan aims to save thousands more lives each year by dramatically improving diagnosis and treatment of cancer. By 2028, the NHS hopes that 55,000 more people each year will survive for five years or more following their cancer diagnosis.