What’s new in the proton beam therapy service

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April 2023

The research room in the proton beam therapy centre in Manchester 

The research room in the proton therapy clinical centre is fully operational and conducting experiments. Supporters of The Christie Charity raised £5.6 million towards the cost of the dedicated research room and the state-of-the-art equipment needed to run it. We can now use the research room to improve outcomes for even more patients.

The first proton research beamline was commissioned in early 2021. With the associated bio-preparation room, it’s now routinely used for experiments, after clinical operation has finished for the day.

The first beamline in the research room is used for in vitro radiobiology and physics research. In vitro trials are ones where samples are studied in a petri dish or test tube, not in the human body.

At the end of the beamline, a scanning nozzle can mimic the delivery of the clinical beam, just like when treating patients. After the scanning nozzle, there is space for a range of different end-stations, which allow a wide variety of experiments to be conducted.

For example, the hypoxia end station with integrated robotic arm allows experiments on a range of different biological samples. This allows a reduction in biological uncertainties, increased experimental accuracy and reproducibility of results, and aids the translation of proton research into the clinic.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the proton research team had to install and commission the research room themselves. This gave the group an excellent understanding of its operation.

In the past year, the proton research group have commissioned high dose-rate proton irradiation and ultra-high dose rate (FLASH) irradiation with single spots and high dose rate spot scanning. The research room gives the group the opportunity to explore FLASH. The team is also working with clinical colleagues to translate this work to the clinic if FLASH fulfils its potential of sparing normal tissue whilst still supressing tumour growth.

To ensure we can keep making breakthroughs in cancer treatments, The Christie Charity is running a campaign to raise funds for cancer research. A donation from you today can help fund the research to bring the next breakthrough into focus.

May 2021

The Youth Support Co-ordinator (YSC) service during lockdown

Youth support coordinator at The Christie, Angie Burns

At the proton beam therapy centre at The Christie, Youth Support Co-ordinators (YSCs) provide a range of social and emotional support to young people aged 13 to 24 undergoing treatment. This includes activities at the proton beam therapy centre such as pool, air-hockey, PlayStation, arts and crafts, and games and puzzles. There is also additional support at Stay City Apartments in Manchester, with 2 nights a week offering pizza and games nights.

YSCs support young people both during and after treatment for up to 2 years including 1:1 support, hospital-based workshops, support groups and residential opportunities.

COVID-19 brought the whole YSC service to a standstill. Young people were required to shield and were isolated even further from their normal environments and peer support. This had a serious negative impact on their wellbeing and mental health.

The YSC team, with the support of The Christie and Teenage Cancer Trust, very quickly developed a safe online programme for young people to participate in, requiring young people to ‘sign up’ to engage in the online service.

Alongside continuing individual support via text, phone calls and online sessions, the programme has included body image support groups, lads' nights in, magic events, quizzes, games nights, ‘An Evening With…’ events (featuring celebrity guests and motivational speakers), music tuition, arts and crafts workshops, careers guidance and information events regarding mental health, exercise and nutrition.

Some of the online youth support co-ordinator activities during the COVID-19 pandemic

The service developed by the YSC team at The Christie has given young people structure to their week, opportunity to meet others, gain support and  most importantly  have some fun at a very challenging time.

Last updated: April 2023