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Pioneering cancer treatment now available in Reading

Picture credited to Matt Hutchinson

The Rutherford Cancer Centre has opened its doors to Proton Beam Therapy - the first such facility in South East England.

A cancer treatment with supposedly no side-effects is now available at the Thames Valley Science Park, Reading.

The Rutherford Cancer Centre's Thames Valley practice unveiled their Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) suite on Monday.

The centre opened in October last year and is only the fourth place in the UK to offer the advanced surgery.

PBT attracts cancer patients as the protons can be stopped in the body at a precise point - causing no excess tissue damage - something that normal radiation treatment fails to do.

Professor Karol Sikora is a consultant in cancer medicine and the chief medical officer of the Rutherford Cancer Centres. He told The Breeze, "We get much better definition around the cancer and spare the normal tissue.

"This increases the chance of completing treatment with no long-lasting side effects."

Rutherford Cancer Centres have aimed to meet rising demand for PBT, revealing the cutting-edge treatment at their centres in Newport, Northumberland and now Thames Valley since treating their first proton therapy patient in April last year.

The centre forms part of the University of Reading-owned Thames Valley Science Park -which opened in March 2018 - and Professor Sikora explained why the location was a natural fit for Rutherford, “Three years ago we visited the University, very forward-thinking.

“I think it’s a tremendous location, we’re between two big motorways: the M40 and M4.

“We really like this part of the world … there’s a lot of science infrastructure here.”

Former Rutherford cancer patient Timon Colegrove learned about PBT through his local cancer support group but was warned-off by his consultant due to the relative lack of research around the treatment.

However, the standard radiotherapy he was being offered gives cancer patients a 40% chance of impotence - and the same probability again of getting incontinence. Timon described the prospective impacts on his life as “frightening.”

After carrying-out his own enquiries - and comparing the differing anecdotal evidence of other cancer patients undergoing the two surgery choices - Timon opted to receive 20 fractions of proton therapy over the course of four weeks. When asked about the side-effects, Timon said there were “virtually none.”

 “Quite frankly, compared to the gamble I would have taken with conventional treatment, it was a no-brainer … I’m as vigorous in life now as I would have ever wished to be.

“We need to spread the word on PBT because it’s almost a right to know”.

The facility is aimed at those with private medical insurance, but Professor Sikora was confident it would not be long before NHS patients also benefited, "I think it'll be very successful from an economic viewpoint.

"The partnership between the NHS and the private sector allows the NHS to do things you couldn't imagine because it doesn't have the resource.

"The NHS is bound to (eventually) offer people treatment here."

You can hear more from Professor Sikora in the video below.

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