Charlotte, Lily, JamieThe parents of a young girl who was referred to America for pioneering proton beam therapy has welcomed the opening of a state of the art specialist NHS centre, offering the same treatment in the UK. The facility at The Christie in Manchester will be the first UK NHS high energy proton beam therapy centre in the country and will treat 750 people every year, including patients from Merseyside and Cheshire.

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Merseyside, working in partnership with The Christie, will be referring suitable patients to the new Proton Beam Therapy Centre when it opens this year. Charlotte Muir and Jamie Smith, from Arnside in Cumbria, spent three months in the US with their daughter Lily while she was treated for a brain tumour at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute.

While Charlotte and Jamie are full of praise for the treatment their daughter received in America, funded by the NHS, they know that for families in a similar position, having access to NHS treatment in the North West will be make an enormous difference.

Lily was a week away from her first birthday when she first showed signs of illness. Following a scan, she was diagnosed with a bleed on the brain. She had two operations and spent six weeks in hospital. Regular scans followed and when she was two-and-a-half it was discovered she had an ependymoma, a form of brain tumour requiring more surgery.

After considering their options for follow up treatment, either chemotherapy or radiotherapy, they opted for radiotherapy and Lily was then referred to Dr Nicky Thorp, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and a specialist in children’s radiotherapy. She recommended proton beam therapy which is a specialist form of radiotherapy that targets certain cancers precisely.

As Lily’s diagnosis is on the NHS list of indications for proton funding abroad she was referred to Florida for treatment in March 2015. Charlotte, aged 31, who runs a gift shop, says: “We were lucky that we are self-employed and only have one child so could move our lives to Florida and that our family were able to spend time with us. For many people that isn’t an option so being able to be treated so close to home on the NHS will be better for a lot of people in our position.”

Lily in hospital 2Now the family are looking forward to a new year of good health and happiness for Lily, now five, who is thriving at school. Charlotte says: “She is just like every other child in her school. Lily knows she has had a brain tumour and it made her poorly. She isn’t scared of hospitals, in fact when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she always says ‘I want to be a doctor’.”

Lily’s dad Jamie, aged 33, a music promoter who runs the Kendal Calling festival, agrees, saying: “Everything the NHS has done for us has been wonderful. We can’t fault a thing. You don’t appreciate the NHS until you need to. We certainly do now.”

As well as improving access to treatment for NHS patients from the North West and beyond, the opening of the centre at The Christie will also increase possibilities for vital research and development of treatment for cancer working with local partners such as The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.

Dr Thorp says: “Fantastic progress is being made on construction of the NHS high energy proton centre in the North West. “It will take some time before the centre is treating at full capacity and in the meantime, patients who will benefit from proton therapy will still be fully funded by the NHS to receive proton therapy at our partner centres overseas.”