Breast cancer patients take part in proton beam trial
A pioneering NHS trial has begun to assess whether proton beam therapy can help certain breast cancer patients. The study, which is a world-first, will compare the hi-tech treatment with standard radiotherapy for those deemed at higher risk of long-term heart problems.
The treatment uses charged particles instead of X-rays to target tumours more precisely. The trial will include 192 people across 22 UK sites. Every year some 30,000 breast cancer patients in the UK are offered radiotherapy following surgery.
Typically, the treatment is effective but for some it can lead to heart problems later down the line.
This is because the breast tissue and lymph nodes being targeted are close to the heart, or because the patient already has an underlying increased risk of heart problems.
It is hoped that using the proton beam treatment will minimise the amount of radiation delivered to the heart during traditional treatment, while still targeting the cancerous cells.
Only those who are estimated to have at least 2% or more potential lifetime risk of heart issues caused by radiotherapy will take part in the trial.
Scientists will measure the dose of radiation delivered to the heart and patients will record their experience.
Kim Jones, a 44-year-old school caterer from Ely, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February last year.
She had chemotherapy and a mastectomy, along with lymph node removal.
Mrs Jones was one of the first patients included in the trial, with her therapy beginning on 24 October.
The mum-of-two said she was told she might be suitable as she already had an issue with her heart.
“When I was told that I’d been accepted onto the trial, I felt very lucky to have the opportunity to get this treatment,” Mrs Jones continued.
“Clinical trials are incredibly important as they are the best way to evaluate which treatments work the best.”
She added her experience of being treated with proton beam therapy had been superb, and that the facilities had been “bright and spacious and feels very relaxing”.
Almost 200 patients will take part in the trial, which is being led by researchers at the University of Cambridge, the Institute of Cancer Research, London and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
Patients will be treated at either the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, or University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Anna Kirby, radiotherapy lead for the trial, said that it had been a huge effort to secure funding for and launch the trial.
She continued: “We have already learned a huge amount about how to optimise and standardise current breast cancer radiotherapy practices alongside optimising proton beam therapy approaches.
“We hope that the Parable trial will help us to further personalise radiotherapy treatments and ensure that people can access the radiotherapy approach that is best for them, regardless of where they live.
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