Simon Hardacre, the first person to receive innovative high energy proton beam therapy in the UK, says, “I have been given intensive cancer care without suffering any gruelling side-effects.”

Simon, 56, chose proton beam therapy for his prostate cancer, with advice from Dr Jason Lester, Senior Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the Rutherford Cancer Centre, South Wales, developed by Proton Partners International.


Proton beam therapy explained


Proton beam therapy differs from conventional radiotherapy (which uses photons), and is very suitable for certain tumours, with proton beam therapy treatment causing fewer side effects. Lester explains: "Proton beam therapy uses beams of protons to target cancers. Unlike conventional radiotherapy, protons stop when they reach the cancer, delivering most of their energy into the cancer rather than the surrounding healthy tissue. This may result in fewer side effects."

Proton beam therapy is especially useful for cancers at the base of the brain and the spinal cord in children, where conventional radiotherapy can cause brain or neurological damage, but proton beam therapy can also be beneficial for other cancers such as prostate cancer or those where tumours are in hard to reach places.


Conventional radiotherapy can result in permanent rectal bleeding or diarrhoea


Simon's cancer was confined to his prostate gland, he was fit and motivated, making him a good candidate for conventional radiotherapy or proton beam therapy. "Simon chose proton beam therapy because it delivered a lower dose of radiation to the healthy structures around the prostate, reducing the chance of side effects," says Lester. "As the prostate is adjacent to the rectum, in a few cases conventional radiotherapy can result in permanent rectal bleeding or diarrhoea."

Before the treatment a saline-filled biodegradable balloon was inserted between the prostate and the rectum, so that radiation overlapping the edge of the tumour (essential to ensure the tumour is fully covered) passed into the balloon rather than the rectum.


Simon could continue with his day-to-day routine


Simon travelled the half-hour from his home in Woolaston, Forest of Dean, to Newport for this innovative treatment each weekday for four weeks. "Proton beam therapy cannot be felt by the patient and no injections, drugs or sedation are required. There were no immediate side effects after each treatment, so Simon was able to carry on his normal routine, coming in for treatment between the school run and going to work," says Lester.

"Simon is the first patient to be treated with high-energy proton beam therapy here in the UK. So far, it looks to have been a success."


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