State of the art cyclotron built for The Christie

Credit: The Christie

One of the most advanced pieces of equipment for the UK’s first NHS high energy proton beam therapy (PBT) centre has been built for the specialist cancer hospital The Christie in Manchester, and will be installed in June 2017.

The cyclotron has been built in Troisdorf, Germany, and is only the 14th cyclotron of its kind to be built.

The super conducting cyclotron is no bigger than a family car, and due to its high tech design, it is just a quarter of the weight of many other cyclotron models.

This 90 ton power house is capable of accelerating a proton stream made up of ionized hydrogen gas to two-thirds the speed of light (over100,000 miles per second). That’s fast enough to travel around the world at the equator in about a quarter of a second, and fast enough to hit the moon in a little under two seconds.

The cyclotron needs to be very cold and uses superconducting magnets cooled by liquid helium -2690C and coils of copper wire 30km (almost 19 miles) long.

Proton beam therapy is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets certain cancers very precisely, increasing success rates and reducing side-effects. It targets tumours with less damage to surrounding healthy tissue and is particularly appropriate for certain cancers in children who are at risk of lasting damage to organs that are still growing.

The cyclotron will supply protons to three treatment rooms at The Christie and also for research performed in collaboration with The University of Manchester.

In the treatment room the beam from the cyclotron is rotated on a gantry which rotates the beam around the patient to achieve the best angle for treatment. A nozzle delivers the controlled beam to the targeted tumour.

The specialist cancer centre is one of only two trusts nationally where NHS PBT centres are being developed. The other is University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH). When complete they will each treat up to 750 patients every year. The Government has invested £250m into building and equipping the two NHS centres. The centre at The Christie is currently under construction and due to complete in 2018.

Patients who currently require PBT have to travel abroad for long periods of time as the state-of-the-art treatment is not currently available in the UK. While The Christie and UCLH centres are being built, all clinically appropriate NHS patients will continue to be funded to travel overseas for treatment with NHS England’s established partner centres.

Chief Executive of The Christie, Roger Spencer, said:

Director, medical physics and engineering at The Christie, Dr Ranald Mackay, said:

Over the last century, The Christie radiotherapy department has pioneered many advances in radiotherapy. It already leads in advanced radiotherapy, delivering more complex treatments than any other centre in the country. The introduction of proton beam therapy will allow it to continue to make advances in this area and improve patient treatment and care.