The Christie is celebrating treating 1,000 patients with the pioneering cancer treatment of proton beam therapy (PBT).
Adrian Bishop, aged 56, from Rotherham, has recently become the 1,000th patient at The Christie to receive PBT after he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer last year when he noticed a painful ulcer at the back of his throat was getting bigger.
Doctors at his local cancer treatment centre in Sheffield explained that Adrian would be an ideal patient for proton beam therapy - a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets certain cancers very precisely, reducing side effects.
Whilst the current standard treatment is usually effective, patients with head and neck tumours, can suffer from long-term side effects including dry mouth, loss of taste, difficulty chewing and swallowing and problems with hearing. Some patients might need to use a feeding tube for the rest of their lives.
Grandad of 2 Adrian, who is married to Marie and works for Royal Mail, said: “I’m quite proud to be the 1,000th patient at The Christie to receive proton treatment. I hadn’t heard of it before. Everyone has heard of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but not proton beam. When I learnt more about it, it looked an ideal way to help me suffer less side effects than the usual treatment can cause. I’m really pleased I was deemed eligible to be treated at The Christie.”
Adrian is currently midway through his treatment regime which will include 33 sessions of daily PBT treatment as well as 2 chemotherapy sessions. Adrian will stay at specially arranged and NHS-funded accommodation in Manchester throughout his time in the city.
Adrian added: “It is going well so far. The Christie is a fantastic place and is definitely in the business class of hospitals.
“I was obviously very frightened when I was diagnosed. It was a huge shock and in some ways, the mental impact is just as tough as the physical side. Fortunately my doctors explained that with the treatment it would be curable, so here I am in Manchester.
“I know I have a few tough weeks ahead of me, but I’m looking forward to getting my treatment completed so I can get back to my passions of fishing, football and rugby – and most importantly getting home to my wife Marie, who has been my rock through this.”
As well as his treatment, Adrian is also part of the pioneering first proton beam therapy clinical trial in the UK currently taking place at The Christie. The ‘TORPEdO’ trial, co-led by The Christie and The Institute of Cancer Research is aiming to determine whether the use of proton beam therapy reduces long-term side effects and improves quality of life for patients treated with radiotherapy for throat cancer.
A year after treatment, patients will be asked about their quality of life and doctors will assess the impact of any side-effects, and whether they still need to use a feeding tube a year after treatment, or have lost a significant amount of weight.
The Christie became the first centre in the NHS to offer the life-saving high energy proton beam therapy in 2018 as part of a £250m investment by NHS England. It is now one of two specialist centres in the UK, the other being at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which started treating patients in 2021. Before 2018, the highly specialised treatment was only available abroad with the NHS funding patients’ treatment, but over the past decade the NHS has invested and trained its workforce so PBT can be delivered in the UK.
Clinical director of proton beam therapy at The Christie, Professor Ed Smith, said: “We’re delighted to reach this milestone of 1,000 PBT patients at The Christie. While PBT is not appropriate for all patients, Adrian is a prime example of how it can be used to reduce side effects for some of our patients. We’re very proud of what we have achieved since we opened our doors in 2018.”
Any patients interested in taking part in clinical trials should discuss this option with their consultant or GP. Not all patients will fit the criteria for a specific trial. While clinical trials can be successful for some patients, outcomes can vary from case to case.