Professor Karol Sikora Speaks at World Cancer Congress 2017

More precise imaging methods and advances in information technology has increased the accuracy of radiation delivery to tumours, according to chief medical officer of Proton Partners International Professor Karol Sikora.

Speaking at BIT’s Annual World Cancer Congress 2017 in Barcelona today, Professor Sikora told delegates that radiotherapy delivery has become increasingly accurate over the last two decades because of computer software originally designed for military purposes.

Advances in accuracy means that there has been a marked reduction in the long-term side effects of radiotherapy due to the ability to reduce collateral damage to normal tissue. The increasing availability of proton beam therapy, a form of radiotherapy, has also further refined the precision of delivery as protons can be controlled to stop at a defined point in the body.

Professor Sikora said: “Around 50% of cancer patients are treated with radiotherapy and we can estimate that around 10% of these patients would actually be treated more effectively with proton beam therapy. In Britain, this would mean a requirement for 18 centres.

“The range of published estimates for the utilisation of protons in radical radiotherapy ranges from 1%, in line with the NHS, to 20%, in the US, however most European countries are planning for at least 10% of radiotherapy to be delivered by protons.

“Proton beam therapy cannot be used in all cases, but it is particularly useful in situations where a tumour is in juxtaposition with a critically radio-sensitive normal structure, for example the spinal cord in a child with a neurological tumour.

“The UK is one of the last counties in Western Europe to have a high-energy proton treatment facility, the first of which will be at The Rutherford Cancer Centre, South Wales, which is currently being built by Proton Partners International. We’re also building a centre in the North West, the North East and in the Thames Valley to ensure that proton beam therapy, in addition to conventional cancer treatments, are available to more patients across the UK.

“Unless there is an urgent policy change the overall quality of British radiotherapy will fall below European levels by 2020. It’s important that we work together to ensure that cancer patients are given the care they deserve.”