26 January 2022

The new Proton Beam Therapy (PLT) center at University College London Hospital (UCL) treated the first patients.

The center, located on the lower floors of the Grafton Way building, became the second in the UK National Health System (NHS). Two proton centers now cover the whole of England, but UCLH will receive patients mainly from the south of the country, and the Christie center in Manchester - from the north.

The creation of the national PLT service, operating on the basis of the UCLH and The Christie centers, was funded by public investment in the amount of 250 million pounds (330 million US dollars). In the future, both centers will treat up to 1,300 patients per year. Prior to the opening of the NHS service in Manchester in December 2018, the only option for obtaining a PLT under the NHS program was treatment abroad in Europe or the USA.

Proton beam therapy (PLT) is a type of radiotherapy that can irradiate tumors with millimeter accuracy, minimizing the impact on surrounding healthy tissues. Treatment with PLT is indicated for various categories of patients, from very young children to adults with intractable cancers. These may be tumors in the brain, on the spine or near the reproductive organs, where it is especially important to protect the surrounding tissues. About a third of the patients are children and adolescents. The course of treatment takes about six weeks, while people live nearby and visit the center daily as outpatient patients.

David Probert, executive director of UCLH, said: "I am extremely proud of everyone who took part in the creation of the PLT center at UCLH. I would like to congratulate all employees who have shown outstanding leadership qualities and perseverance on the opening of the center. I am very pleased that patients will now be able to receive treatment with this extremely accurate type of radiation therapy closer to home."

The incredible equipment needed to carry out such an accurate treatment is located in the basement of the Grafton Way building. A cyclotron the size of a large car weighs 90 tons. It generates protons that accelerate ionized hydrogen to two-thirds of the speed of light. This beam of particles is directed through massive magnets to one of four treatment rooms, where equipment three stories high treats the patient with millimeter accuracy.

The UCLH PLT Center has been improved due to charitable donations. With the support of the Fight for Life organization, children's waiting areas have turned into entertaining spaces with lots of toys and interactive games to distract children while waiting, and for those who prefer a quieter environment, there is a quiet and cozy corner. Macmillan Cancer Support has provided a rest room for patients where they can sit in silence and meditate. Thanks to a partnership with Morgan Stanley, the Teenage Cancer Trust has raised funds to improve waiting areas for teenagers and young people. Individual donations and fundraising through the UCLH Charitable Foundation allowed to finance the installation of artwork and installations in the corridors of the center, anesthesiology and treatment rooms.

The original news can be read here

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