Page last updated at 12:55 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 13:55 UK

Bid for 20m proton therapy unit

Eye treatment
Proton therapy helps to treat cancers in the eye and the brain

A hospital on Merseyside is bidding to become the first centre in the UK to provide specialist treatment for brain tumours and rare cancers.

Plans have been put forward to create the National Centre for Proton Therapy - a £20m centre at the Wirral's Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology.

If successful, more than 1,400 patients across the country would benefit.

Proton therapy is described as "the most precise form of radiation therapy" as it pinpoints the cancer.

At the moment, patients with some brain tumours, particularly in children, have to be treated in centres in America, with treatment costing more than £100,000.

If the funding from the NHS is secured, the National Centre for Proton Therapy will be able to treat cancers that need low energy dose and high energy dose protons.

It causes far fewer side effects than traditional radiotherapy and is particularly beneficial in treating childhood cancers
Darren Hurrell
Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology

Darren Hurrell, chief executive of the centre, said: "It works by accurately targeting the tumour while minimising damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

"It causes far fewer side effects than traditional radiotherapy and is particularly beneficial in treating childhood cancers."

Proton therapy works by depositing energy in the target tumour. These electrons damage the DNA of cancerous cells and ultimately cause their death.

The advantage with proton therapy is that protons scatter less easily than other particles, leading to less damage to the surrounding tissue.

NHS officials are currently looking at the proposals and a spokeswoman for the centre said, if it was given the go-ahead, it would be up-and-running in less than three years.



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