News ID: 237781
Published: 1149 GMT January 23, 2019

Teenager with brain tumor to undergo proton beam therapy

Teenager with brain tumor to undergo proton beam therapy
Radiographers David Kirk (left) and Melissa Bentley (right) demonstrate the NHS’s new proton beam kit.

A 15-year-old with a rare brain tumor is to undergo pioneering proton beam therapy at the UK’s first dedicated treatment center.

Mason Kettley, from Angmering in West Sussex, will receive the highly targeted therapy, which helps shrink tumors and cuts the risk of side effects, wrote.

It will be carried out at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, home to the world’s newest proton beam therapy center, on Wednesday.

Mason is one of the first patients to undergo proton beam therapy in the UK and the first to go public. Until now, British patients needing the treatment had to travel to countries including the US.

Proton beam therapy is a highly targeted treatment which hits tumors much more precisely than conventional radiotherapy. This makes it beneficial for patients with difficult-to-treat tumors in critical areas, such as in the brain or spinal cord, and for young people whose tissues are still developing.

The most high-profile case involving proton beam therapy is that of five-year-old Aysha King, who underwent surgery for a brain tumor at Southampton General Hospital in 2014.

Against the advice of the hospital, his parents took the child to Spain for proton beam therapy because the NHS did not provide the treatment at the time. The case sparked an international manhunt for the family, and Aysha’s parents were arrested. The high court eventually ruled Aysha could receive proton beam therapy in Prague. In 2018, Aysha was declared free of cancer.

Mason was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor in October after suffering headaches and failing to put on weight. Following a biopsy and an operation to insert a shunt, doctors referred Mason’s case to a national panel of experts. They decided that his tumor — known as a benign pilomyxoid astrocytoma — made him a suitable candidate for proton beam therapy

Mason will have treatment Monday to Friday for almost six weeks — 28 treatment sessions in total.

A specially made radiotherapy mask has been created to keep his head perfectly still during the therapy.

He said, “The short-term effects are that you may vomit and get a headache now and then, but in the long-term the side effects are rare.”

Mason, who will sit General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs) next year, will have six weeks off school before going back.

Two new proton beam therapy centers have now been built at the Christie and University College London Hospital (UCLH) with £250 million of government money.

Consultant clinical oncologist Dr. Gillian Whitfield, who is leading Mason’s care at the Christie, said, “With proton beam therapy, compared to conventional radiotherapy, there is less dose to surrounding normal tissues and less risk of permanent long-term effects of treatment.

“This is particularly important for children and teenagers with curable tumors, who will survive decades after treatment and are at much greater risk of serious long-term effects of treatment than adults.

“Mason’s tumor is a low grade (slow growing) tumor with a high chance of cure.

“For Mason, in comparison to conventional radiotherapy, proton beam therapy should carry a lower risk of some important long-term side effects of treatment, particularly effects on short-term memory and learning ability and the risk over the next eight decades of the radiation causing other tumors.”

Professor Stephen Powis, medical director for the NHS in England, said, “This is a hugely exciting development for the NHS and we are delighted that we are able to provide this life-changing treatment for patients like Mason.”

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