UK’s only therapeutic proton beam enables pioneering cancer research project

Friday, 24th March 2017 | General | 0 comments

A research project funded by North West Cancer Research, using the UK’s only therapeutic proton beam, is now being used in a ground-breaking piece of research. The research will investigate the most common type of head and neck cancer – squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). SSC is a cancer that can affect the lining of the mouth, nose and throat. 

Nearly 600,000 new cases of head and neck SCC are reported every year and it is the 6th most common cancer worldwide. Advanced head and neck cancers are notoriously difficult to treat and have a limited prognosis for patients. North West Cancer Research are hoping to change these alarming statistics by funding research which will determine future effective treatments for head and neck cancers.

It is the first time the proton beam has been used in a cancer research project such as this. Dr Jason Parson, from the University of Liverpool, is leading the project and wants proton beam therapy to be used to treat head and neck cancers in the future.


About the science

Radiotherapy is considered the most effective treatment for head and neck cancers, but in some cases it can have little effect on the cancer cells as they can be resistant to treatment.

Dr Parsons’ research explores the effect that radiotherapy, including x-rays and protons, has on different types of head and neck cancers. He will concentrate on looking closely at the DNA damage the radiation causes and how cancer cells repair themselves after treatment.

Liverpool is steadily staking its claim as a centre of excellence for Proton Beam treatment, bolstered by the recent news that the city will house a second proton therapy centre at the new Paddington Village scheme, currently underway.

Protons deliver a higher dose of radiation directly to the tumour, and reduce the dose delivered to the surrounding normal tissue. For patients this should decrease adverse side effects of the treatment.

This research is supported by The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, who have made the proton beam available for this cancer research.

This collaborative team are the first and only researchers to use the proton beam facility in this type of cancer research. Dr Parsons said “It is exciting to be at the forefront of medical research and using ground-breaking equipment to advance cancer research.”

Professor Michael Brada, Consultant in Clinical Oncology at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and Professor of Radiation Oncology at University of Liverpool who is a collaborator in the research, said “The well characterised low energy beam in Clatterbridge is ideal for biological experiments. Providing the technology to the team for this research illustrates the importance of a collaborative approach in developing and testing new ways to treat head and neck cancer.”


North West Cancer Research’s Commitments

The research has been supported by a three-year grant worth £187,000 from North West Cancer Research. It has also been boosted by £20,000 worth of funding from The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, to create a dedicated research laboratory at the hospital.


Proton beam therapy at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre

Over 3,000 patient have been treated at the Clatterbridge Cancer centre using a cyclotron- which painlessly delivers radiation from a particle accelerator.

Proton therapy is currently used to treat patients with eye cancer at the centre. It uses protons to treat and destroy cancer cells, whilst leaving no harm to the surrounding healthy cells.

Help us to continue funding proton beam therapy, that’s revolutionising the way cancer is treated, by donating today.





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