By World Healthcare Journal-
Over the past few years, the UK has made significant strides in the adoption and implementation of innovative cancer treatments, placing it right at the forefront of personalised and advanced cancer care globally.
This is in large part thanks to the introduction of revolutionary Proton Beam therapy to the UK in 2018, transforming cancer care in the UK and fuelling strong demand for personalised oncology care and precision radiotherapy.
At the vanguard of this revolution is Rutherford Cancer Centres, a UK healthcare provider that has established three advanced cancer care centres under the Rutherford Cancer Centres brand with a fourth due to be handed over in December this year. The company is recognised as the world’s leading developer of Proton Beam therapy services.
Mike Moran has been CEO of Rutherford Health plc since 2015 and has overseen the rapid expansion of the company vision. Here he speaks to WHJ about the continued development and successes of Proton Beam therapy and the Rutherford Cancer Centres across the UK.
Following the recent expansion and successes of Rutherford Cancer Centres, what are the next steps that Rutherford have for further development?
Over the past year, we have played a pivotal role in transforming the face of cancer care in the UK. A year ago Proton Beam therapy was not available in the UK, and now we have three fully operational centres that provide the treatment, with a fourth under construction.
As a company, we are just four years old and we are seeing years of hard work coming to fruition. There is still a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes that will push UK cancer care to new heights - we hope that this is just the beginning.
We are also looking to broaden our horizon globally. We recognise that as the world’s leading developer of proton therapy services we have a lot more to give. We are assisting other countries to develop their cancer services and are actively looking at ways to facilitate cancer patients in other parts of the world to access this treatment.
We have started treating international patients with Proton Beam therapy at the Rutherford Cancer Centre Thames Valley in Reading, just 25 minutes from Central London, and we also enjoy a permanent presence in London’s famous Harley Street with our consulting rooms at the Phoenix Hospital Group.
This will enable our international patients to undergo all their initial consultations in central London before commencing their treatment. We hope that by expanding access to international patients, our success in the UK will translate as a triumph for cancer care globally.
How much progress has been made towards achieving the goal of putting Cancer Centres within 90 minutes of 75 per cent of the population?
We already have three fully operational centres with a fourth due to be completed soon. This means we have the capacity to treat 1,500 patients with Proton Beam therapy which will rise to 2,000 when the centre in Liverpool is completed, and so cover the South, North and West of the UK.
This is a remarkable turnaround.
The UK has transitioned from being a country that lagged behind every other advanced country in the world when it came to the provision of precision radiotherapy to one that is now at the very forefront, thanks to the efforts of Rutherford Health plc.
But we are not resting on our laurels, and we remain committed to ensuring that 75 per cent of the population can access Proton Beam therapy within a 90-minute drive. We continue to seek opportunities for new centres across the UK to widen access to precision radiotherapy and specifically Proton Beam therapy.
In the meantime, however, we have significantly enhanced the accessibility and flexibility of our existing centres by incorporating a centrally networked oncology management system which enables patients to access our network at any point, and even transfer centres if necessary.
How is the project to bring Proton Beam therapy to the North West progressing?
The North West centre is still under construction. Work on the project began last year and it is on course to be handed over to us in December. We are able to build a brand-new Rutherford centre in under two years which has been demonstrated with the North East and Thames Valley centres and we are on course to achieve this again.
The North West centre will be a crucial development for cancer care in the region and its location in the heart of Liverpool, in the Knowledge Quarter of Paddington Village where it is situated a stone’s throw away from the Royal College of Physicians and Rutherford Diagnostics, will cement Liverpool’s reputation as a fast-emerging global life sciences hub.
How have the NHS trusts responded to services offered by Rutherford, and how well are partnerships developing with them?
We have excellent relations with the NHS and our partnerships with NHS Trusts from across the country have been expanding. Earlier this year we signed a landmark agreement with the Welsh government that will see adult NHS Wales patients treated with Proton Beam therapy at the Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales. This means cancer patients in Wales can get seamless access to Proton Beam therapy should they need it.
Separately, the Rutherford Cancer Centre North East recently announced a partnership with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The partnership will see cancer patients in North East England treated at the Rutherford Cancer Centre for chemotherapy on the NHS. This is part of an arrangement to ensure that cancer patients do not face any delays in receiving the treatment that they need.
Positive discussions are ongoing with other NHS Trusts and we are confident that our engagement with the NHS in the form of public private partnerships will prove to be crucial in taking British cancer care to the next level.
Has there been any further interest around the country for Proton Beam facilities from private or public bodies? If so, how have you approached this?
Much of the interest has come from patients themselves. Over the past year we have seen a consistent rise in patient enquiries to all of our centres, and the opening of the Christie NHS Centre’s Proton Beam therapy facilities has raised awareness even further.
One in three people in the UK will be affected, in some way, by cancer and whilst survival rates have improved constantly over the past few decades, patients remain eager to pursue treatment options that may not result in side effects that could occur from conventional cancer treatments. Proton Beam therapy can reduce the risk of long-term side effects which is proving attractive to insurers and self-pay patients.
What’s more, clinical evidence on the effectiveness of proton therapy for the most common cancers is increasing, with recent estimates showing that up to 20 per cent of UK prostate cancer patients could be better treated with Proton Beam therapy. Each year in the UK 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Evidence is emerging for other common cancers too, including breast cancer, where proton therapy can minimise toxicity to the heart, lungs and contralateral breast, where even a small dose of radiation could lead to a secondary tumour.
This has driven demand and there is now a recognition among private and public bodies that Proton Beam therapy services need to be expanded. By working in partnership with public bodies and delivering world-class precision radiotherapy services in a highly personalised patient setting, we are perfectly positioned to meet this demand.
How are patients responding to Proton Beam therapy? How many people have benefitted from the therapy so far?
We have seen excellent results in patients who are receiving Proton Beam therapy. At the Rutherford Cancer Centres we maintain a strict double planning process, which ascertains whether a patient is suited for Proton Beam therapy over conventional treatments, and the final decision is made by independent experts. This means that the patients we treat are ideally suited to benefit from Proton Beam therapy.
Almost 50 patients have been treated with Proton Beam therapy at our Wales centre alone and the feedback has been very positive. Understandably, not all patients want to reveal the outcomes of their treatments, but others have gone on record to extoll the benefits of the treatment and have shared their stories publicly.
One of our first Proton Beam therapy patients, Timon Colegrove, was quoted in the British press just after his treatment, saying: “I was very fortunate to receive Proton Beam therapy and I am a firm advocate of greater availability of this pioneering form of cancer care. ”
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