Proton beam therapy is a groundbreaking treatment for eye cancer that, in the UK, is only available on the Clatterbridge site. Referrals are accepted from four specialist hospitals – in Liverpool (St Paul’s Eye Unit), London (Moorfields Eye Hospital), Sheffield (Royal Hallamshire Hospital) and Glasgow (Gartnavel General Hospital).
The treatment uses The Douglas Cyclotron to produce low energy protons which are particularly suited for treating tumours in the eye. Unlike other types of radiotherapy, the energy of the beam stops abruptly at a specified depth within the body, so healthy tissue beyond the beam is spared the beam’s energy and possible side effects.
The most common eye tumour treated by proton therapy is a choroidal melanoma, however treatment of others such as choroidal haemangiomas, iris melanomas and conjunctival melanomas can also be successful.
The treatment works by disabling the tumour cells so that they can no longer reproduce and is given as four daily sessions, each lasting about 20 minutes – with the therapy itself taking only around 30 seconds.