Christie patients will share their experience with the world’s leading particle therapy experts

Press release posted 11 June 2019

Patients from The Christie will share their experiences of having proton beam therapy and radiotherapy with around 1,200 worldwide experts in particle therapy next week.

Sophie Vohra, Georgia Wood-Wareing and Ashleigh O’Hara will speak to delegates who are in Manchester for the prestigious 58th Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG) Annual Congress (10 to 15 June). 

This will be the first time that delegates at the PTCOG annual conference have heard directly from the people who matter most – the patients. Sophie, Georgia and Ashleigh will speak between the courses of the gala dinner taking place at Manchester Cathedral on Thursday 14 June. Jeff Smith MP will conclude the event with an after dinner speech.

Proton beam therapy patients Georgia Wood-Wareing and Sophie Vohra who are speaking at the conference dinner
Proton beam therapy patients Georgia Wood-Wareing and Sophie Vohra who are speaking at the conference dinner

The PTCOG conference brings together leading clinicians, physicists and other practitioners in particle therapy (a form of radiotherapy using beams of protons or heavy ions) to share the latest clinical, scientific and industrial developments and showcase the latest technology which can help patients.

The Christie, University of Manchester and Marketing Manchester are hosting the PTCOG annual conference after winning a competitive bidding process.

Manchester’s heritage as a pioneering city in cancer research and treatment for more than 100 years played a key part in winning the conference. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of Rutherford’s 1919 breakthrough in understanding the structure of the atom and discovering the proton.

The conference, held at Manchester Central, coincides with the opening of the first NHS high energy proton beam therapy centre at The Christie last December.

Both Sophie and Georgia were referred by The Christie for proton beam therapy in the USA and have shared their experience of this to help shape the design and development of the proton beam therapy centre at The Christie.

Sophie, then aged 23, was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma. Her tumour was considered inoperable because of where it was located near the base of her spine. She was offered proton beam therapy alongside chemotherapy.

Sophie said: I’m thrilled to have been invited to speak at this conference in Manchester. I’ve found it very rewarding to share my experience as a patient to help The Christie develop its new proton beam therapy centre and hope that other patients and professionals have benefited. I’m looking forward to being able to share my experience with PTCOG delegates from around the world in the hope that even more people can benefit.”

Georgia was just 16 when she was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma, a rare type of brain tumour that affects the pituitary gland. After two operations in early 2017, Georgia was told they had not been able to remove her tumour fully and she was referred for proton beam therapy.

Ashleigh was diagnosed with a rare head and neck cancer, nasapharangyeal carcinoma, in November 2010 at the age of just 19. Ashleigh underwent intensive treatment of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and says she owes her life to The Christie.

As part of PTCOG, around 500 delegates will visit The Christie on Friday 14 June for a tour of the new proton beam therapy centre. The tour will showcase The Christie and the NHS approach to particle therapy clinical practice, and provide insight into how Manchester is now at the forefront of proton therapy.

Roger Spencer, Chief Executive of The Christie said: “The Christie is very excited to be co-hosting this year’s PTCOG conference in Manchester. It's an opportunity for us to learn from particle therapy experts around the world and to ensure that we are at the leading edge of adopting new technology and procedures. We're delighted that our patients will get to share their experiences with so many international experts.

“We are also looking forward to sharing our knowledge and experience of developing the NHS’s first high energy proton beam therapy centre - one of the most complex proton beam therapy services to date in an integrated cancer centre. We have ambitions to be one of the world's leading centres of expertise in proton beam therapy treatment and research within five years and hosting the PTCOG conference in Manchester this year gets us off to a flying start."

A wide range of Christie employees are involved in the conference which will be opened by The Christie's chief academic officer, Professor Rob Bristow, and Professor Nick Slevin, who was an instrumental figure in bringing proton beam therapy to The Christie.

Marketing Manchester, which provided some initial investment to help win the bid for the conference, has estimated that the conference is worth more than £2.5m to the local economy. By attracting some of the best scientific minds to Manchester it will help to raise the profile of the pioneering cancer research taking place in the city and showcase the exceptional work taking place at The Christie.

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust has been ranked ‘Outstanding’ by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which referred to it as ‘exceptional’ and ‘a leader in its field’. It not only commended the Trust for its effectiveness and care, but highlighted its work in shaping the future of cancer care and noted the reach and influence of its clinical research projects. The CQC also rated The Christie the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.