Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping patients from all over the world and is becoming available in new countries.
SOPHIE TO HELP SHAPE PIONEERING TREATMENT
Sophie Vohra, a 25-year-old PHD student from York whose life was saved by groundbreaking cancer treatment in America, is helping shape a new service offering the same treatment in the UK.
When she was 23, Sophie started suffering increasingly from bad pains and numbness down her right leg. Her GP referred her to the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, and after many tests she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the bottom of her spine called Ewing’s sarcoma. After 14 cycles of chemotherapy, Sophie’s doctor put her forward for proton therapy in America, as her tumor was inoperable. In April 2015, she travelled to a specialist proton therapy center in Florida and had two months of intensive treatment there combining PT with chemotherapy 5 days a week. “I have received all the best opportunities to try and beat this horrible disease. I couldn’t be more grateful to The Christie for helping make it possible. I am now disease free and able to get on with my life and complete my PHD,” she said. Following her successful treatment, she was asked to help shape the future of patient care at the new proton therapy center at The Christie, which will be the first of only two centers to open in the UK and is expected to open in Autumn 2018. Sophie has joined a panel of former Christie patients who have received proton therapy in the US, and who will share their experiences and ideas to help shape plans for the treatment and care offered at the new center in Manchester. Sophie said: “I’m thrilled that I can use my experience to help future patients at the new PT center. I know it will be life-changing for future patients like me.”
GIVING CANCER BOY A LAST CHANCE
Leo Keefe, a 4-year-old who has been battling a rare form of brain cancer for the last 17 months, could soon fly to the US for proton therapy treatment after a fundraising appeal achieved its £150,000 target.
Leo is suffering from a rare type of brain tumor called SPNET. SPNET are usually found in the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain that governs speech and emotion, and are rapidly growing and considered highly malignant, which is why Leo’s mom has been told proton therapy is her son’s last chance. The brave little boy is now awaiting surgery at the hospital in Liverpool, where surgeons are supposed to remove two brain tumors, but will not operate on a nodule below the tumors because of its “critical location” and the risk of causing meningitis. If the operation is successful, the family could travel to the US within two weeks, where the hard-to-reach nodule would be targeted by proton beams. “If any of the tumors grow or the suspicious one grows during PT, then it is totally game over. It is very rare for children to survive a relapsed SPNET tumor but it has been done. After PT if anything grew the surgeons would not operate again and he would be put on palliative care. It is very hard to stay positive but there is no other option,” his mom said. The NHS currently pays for some children from the UK to go abroad for treatment, but Leo does not qualify as he lives in Spain and not in the UK. Fortunately, his mom discovered that the £150,000 fundraising target had been reached, and said she was “in shock” after an anonymous donor contributed tens of thousands of pounds to her son’s cause. Friends and family had raised more than £80,000 through their crowd-funding social media campaign before the anonymous contributor stepped in.
UK NEIGHBORS IN AMERICA FOR CANCER TREATMENT
Two cancer patients who travelled to America for treatment discovered they were actually neighbors from Bolton, UK. Kath Quinn, 68, and Michael Saunders, 71, met for the first time in Jacksonville, Florida, where they were getting proton therapy.
During their time at the hospital, Kath and Michael realized they lived just yards away from each other, and were both patients at The Christie in Manchester, where their doctors recommended them for proton therapy, which is not yet available in the UK. Kath, a mother-of-four, was diagnosed with a hard-to-reach tumor in a passage behind her nose. NHS England agreed to fund the PT treatment and in January, 2016 she and her husband Tony flew to Florida where she underwent 39 treatments over several weeks. She said: “I never wanted to go to America, but the treatment I had there was superb. We met another patient from Manchester while we were there, Michael, and it turned out he lives round the corner from us in Bolton. We have kept in touch after returning home.” Michael, a widower with two daughters, was diagnosed with a skull-based tumor on top of his pituitary gland. He spent 11 weeks in America with his youngest daughter Kerry and underwent 41 treatments. He said: “I met other patients from England there including Kath from Bolton and we had a little UK group. We’d go for meals together and so forth. If the proton therapy had been in Manchester, so close to home, it would have made things a great deal easier for me and my daughters.” Currently the NHS sends people needing PT to the US or Switzerland but from August, 2018 The Christie will be treating patients in Manchester.