BBC documentary on proton beam therapy
Thursday, July 18, 2019

The BBC Horizon team spent two years tracking the construction of two proton beam therapy centres in the UK.  Their documentary, The 250 Million Pound Cancer Cure is broadcast on BBC Two on Monday 22 July. 

The arrival of NHS proton beam therapy in the UK hugely benefits sarcoma patients. We know that proton beam therapy targets the tumour, not surrounded tissue which can reduce side effects and limit the damage to healthy tissue. This is especially useful when treating children and people with sarcomas in sensitive areas, such as the head, spine and pelvis.

Previously, patients would have to travel to Europe or USA to access Proton Beam Therapy staying away from family and friends whilst undergoing treatment. 'Having these services at home means sarcoma patients no longer have the upheaval of international travel at an already emotional and difficult time,' says Claire Kelleher, Dirctor of Information and Support, Sarcoma UK.

Download the Sarcoma UK factsheet on proton beam therapy.

From the BBC:

'Proton beam therapy is the one of the most technologically advanced though expensive cancer treatments in the world - but it has the potential to save the lives of children with otherwise incurable cancers.

Over two years, Horizon follows the engineers, scientists and medics as they race to build two new centres, one at the Christie Hospital in Manchester and one at University College Hospital in London, as well as following as the first children awaiting the lifesaving treatment. This is one of the most complex challenges the NHS has ever attempted.

At the cutting edge of particle physics, proton beam therapy involves splitting hydrogen atoms to create a beam of protons travelling at two-thirds the speed of light, which target tumours with millimetre precision. But doing this in the heart of two of our biggest cities is no easy feat. The process generates so much radiation it needs to be housed in a maze-like nuclear bunker, with walls four metres thick. 2,000 tonnes of precision instruments are installed - more than four jumbo jets worth - and it all has to work perfectly.

This special BBC Two programme goes behind the scenes on the £250 million cancer cure - from digging the biggest, widest hole ever to exist in London to the treatment of the first patients in the UK.'

Watch The 250 Million Pound Cancer Cure, BBC Two on 22 July 2019 and afterwards on iPlayer.