U.K. Introduces Proton Beam Radiotherapy for Children With Rare Cancers

Proto beam radiotherapy using precision high-energy lasers will be used to treat British children with rare forms of the disease, the UK government announced Tuesday.

The cutting-edge therapy, which will be available through the UK's National Health Service (NHS), targets tumors directly, resulting in minimal damage to surrounding tissues and allowing patients to recover at a faster rate than with the traditional X-ray therapy.

It is estimated that around 1,500 patients a year will benefit from the new treatment. At present, sufferers in the UK must travel to the U.S. or Switzerland to receive treatment.

UK health secretary Andrew Lansley, a speaker at the Britain Against Cancer Conference in London, said Tuesday, "This investment will ensure that Britain remains at the cutting edge of the fight against cancer."

He added, "This new treatment will particularly help children who suffer from cancer as they will receive better quality treatment and their chances of experiencing side effects such hearing loss and reduced IQ will be minimized."

The $234 million investment will be paid for by money from public taxes, instead of controversial public-private finance initiatives which have been criticized for securing large-scale health projects that do not offer taxpayers good value in the long-term.