The case for particle therapy.
Among the most important decisions facing the British Government regarding the treatment of cancer in the National Health Service (NHS) is the purchase of charged particle therapy (CPT) centres. CPT is different from conventional radiotherapy: the dose is deposited far more selectively in Bragg Peaks by either protons or "heavy" ions, such as carbon. In this way, it is possible to "dose paint" targets, voxel by voxel, with far less dose to surrounding tissues than with X-ray techniques. At present the UK possesses a 62 MeV cyclotron proton facility at Clatterbridge (Wirral), which provides therapy for intraocular cancers such as melanoma; for deeper situated cancers in the pelvis, chest etc., much higher energies, over 200 MeV are required from a synchrotron facility. There is an impressive expansion in particle beam therapy (PBT) centres worldwide, since they offer good prospects of improved quality of life with enhanced cancer cures in situations where conventional therapy is limited due to radioresistance or by the close proximity of critical normal tissues. There is a threat to UK Oncology, since it is anticipated that several thousand British patients may require referral abroad for therapy; this would severely disrupt their multidisciplinary management and require demanding logistical support.