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New NHS specialist cancer unit

Cancer campaigners welcome policy to invest in the treatment of brain and spinal cord tumours

Cancer charities have welcomed a move by ministers in England to increase investment in specialist cancer care for brain and spinal cord tumours.

Under ministerial proposals, hospitals will be invited to bid to become the first national centre for proton therapy – a cancer treatment that uses radiation to attack cancerous cells while minimising damage to nearby tissue. It works by firing energy into the tumour where electrons damage the DNA of cancerous cells, killing them.

There is just one specialist unit in England and it treats only less complex eye cancers. Clatterbridge on the Wirral uses a low-energy machine that can only be used to reach cancers near the eye. As a result, many patients are forced to seek care abroad.

Proton therapy, which is most commonly used on children and patients with tumours near the most sensitive parts of the brain and spinal cord, is available in the US and other European countries. However, the cost of treatment can be in excess of £100,000.

The new unit in England would treat up to 400 patients each year.

Wendy Fulcher, chairman of cancer charity, Brain Tumour Research, welcomed the news, saying that she hopes the move will "signal a shift in policy for increased funding for brain tumour treatment and research".

19th August 2009

From: Healthcare

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