What’s new and progress so far

Keep up to date with progress by following @TheChristieNHS on Twitter and give us your feedback by using the hashtag #christieprotons.

August 2018

First measured Bragg peak on ProBeam

The physics and engineering teams are currently hard at work commissioning Gantry 1 and Gantry 2. The teams are working to measure, understand and test the performance of the ProBeam system. This will ensure the system is safe, reliable and fit for clinical treatment delivery.

One of the first measurements the teams looked at on Gantry 1 tested how the dose changes as a beam of protons passes through a water tank. The measured dose curve clearly showed the first Bragg peak seen at the proton beam therapy centre.

A Bragg peak shows when radiotherapy – whether that’s traditional photon radiotherapy or proton beam therapy – is at its strongest. As a proton beam passes through the body or the physics water tank, it delivers its maximum dose at a precise depth with little or no dose deposited beyond this point.

In proton beam therapy, the treatment is planned so that the Bragg peak occurs precisely at the site of the tumour. This means the treatment planning team can minimise the dose to healthy tissue – reducing long-term side effects – or safely increase doses to tumours, depending on the clinical need.

Measuring this first Bragg peak was an exciting development, marking the transition from planning and theorising to delivering real dose and treatment beams.

Welcome to our new diagnostic radiographer

The proton beam therapy department would like to welcome Amal Salah, a diagnostic radiographer, to the team. Diagnostic radiographers use X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI scans or other imaging technology to look into your body.

Amal has described her experiences since joining the department.   

“As a diagnostic radiographer starting in radiotherapy, my new role was a challenging experience at first. Previously, I have had very little experience in radiotherapy or proton beam therapy. During my time as a diagnostic radiographer, I specialized in MRI after completing my Master’s degree in Advanced Medical Imaging.

“The biggest challenge I have faced in my new role as a pre-treatment radiographer in proton beam therapy has been understanding the difference between the diagnostic and therapeutic radiography processes. Additionally, the idea of using MRI scans to help plan radiotherapy treatment is a fairly new one, and this has meant new challenges and unique requirements.

“I am currently designing a presentation to teach therapeutic radiographers more about the process of MRI scanning and to help them learn the theory behind MRI.

“Thanks to both my academic and clinical backgrounds, I am also able to assist with scan optimization. This means we can produce the highest quality images, and these are essential for planning radiotherapy treatment.

“I will continue to embrace the challenges faced in my new role as part of the proton beam therapy team and value the opportunity to learn and evolve as a radiographer.”

Xploro Application

Over the last year, The Christie has been working in collaboration with the digital agency Corporation Pop® and mobile application Xploro® to create a unique patient information experience aimed at 8-14 year olds.

The aim of the app is to reduce anxiety by increasing the patient’s knowledge of proton beam therapy in a fun and interactive way. One of these methods is allowing the patient to design their own avatar who will then guide them through the various stages of treatment planning and treatment delivery. 

Picture Copyright: Corporation Pop 

The app has also been designed to answer any questions a child might have about their treatment or the facilities available at The Christie. It will be pre-populated with answers from medical staff and content from CLIC Sargent and Bone Cancer Research Trust.

It is being partly funded by Innovate UK and the Social Tech Trust and will feature a range of content unique to The Christie.

We have had a great response from children at our engagement days and we can’t wait to see the finished product and the impact that it will have on a child’s treatment experience. 

Picture Copyright: Corporation Pop 

Proton beam therapy patient accommodation

The Christie has been working with Staycity to provide accommodation for out of area patients during their course of proton beam therapy.

Staycity is located in Piccadilly, close to Manchester Piccadilly Train Station. Staycity is an ‘aparthotel’, meaning each apartment comes furnished with fully equipped kitchens, separate bedrooms and living area on one level. Families who have accommodation at Staycity will have access to a designated lounge and communal areas.

Where accommodation is provided, The Christie will provide a free shuttle service between the accommodation and the proton beam therapy centre for the duration of your treatment.

For further information, please visit the Staycity website.

July 2018

Tours of the proton beam therapy centre

At the end of July, the proton beam therapy centre opened its doors to a wide range of visitors. Attendees included past patients, clinical oncologists from referring hospitals, patients who have received proton beam therapy overseas, charity donors, neighbours and staff members from The Christie.

Visitors had the opportunity to visit several areas in the department, which will be involved in a patient’s treatment pathway. The tour included the ProBeam gantry, CT scanner, paediatric waiting areas, day unit and recovery and clinical areas.

The tours were well received by those who attended. Visitors gained a unique insight into proton beam therapy and all the hard work that has gone into developing the service.

The 100th End of treatment bell

The proton beam therapy department at The Christie has received its very own end of treatment bell. Emma Payton and her family have kindly donated an extra special gold bell.

Emma is a former proton patient who has received treatment in the USA. Emma and her family have been donating bells to radiotherapy departments across the UK, and they reserved the special 100th bell for the proton beam therapy department at The Christie.

This end of treatment bell will be put up in the proton beam therapy department so all our patients can ring it at the end of a course of treatment. 

Pictured left to right: David McGovern (clinical support worker), Lucy Davies (senior radiographer) Hazel Pennington (lead operational radiographer – Protons), Emma Payton

Northern Sarcoma CNS AHP Network

Members of the proton beam therapy team were delighted to provide a series of tours of the department for the Northern Sarcoma CNS AHP Network (N-SCAN). AHPs are specialist professionals - called Allied Health Professionals - and can play an important part in rehabilitation after sarcoma treatment.

ProBeam training

Members of the proton beam therapy physics team recently attended a four-day training course. The two trainers from Varian passed on their extensive knowledge about the entire proton beam therapy system – right from the hydrogen ion source where protons are extracted into the cyclotron, through the beam line optics, up onto the gantry and into the rooms where patients will be treated.

We also got to grips with the many systems involved in this feat of engineering, including the most important safety systems. The practical sessions were really useful, imaging phantoms and treating them with protons, representing a typical clinical workflow. These new skills will be invaluable for the forthcoming acceptance and commissioning of the gantries.

The Christie Charity skydive event

Proton senior therapy radiographer, Lucy Davies, is taking part in a charity skydive this September to raise awareness and money for The Christie Charity. The money raised will go towards improving patient experiences for proton beam therapy. Every penny will make a real difference for our patients and help improve our services.

Lucy said: “I’ve always regarded myself as a bit of a thrill-seeker, but jumping out of a plane at 11,000 feet is the ultimate challenge! To be able to do this event, whilst also raising funds for The Christie Charity to improve the services and experiences for the patients I will be treating, is an amazing opportunity and a real motivation.”


June 2018

National Joint Sarcoma Meeting 2018 

The Christie had the opportunity to host the National Joint Sarcoma Meeting. Attendees of the meeting included clinical oncologists, surgeons, physicists, dosimetrists and radiographers from all around the UK. Proton beam therapy can play a key role in treating some sarcomas.

The National Joint Sarcoma Meeting is held with collaboration in mind. It was an important opportunity for surgeons and clinical oncologists to work together to develop and discuss the best treatments for sarcoma patients.

The attendees also had the opportunity to complete a short tour of the proton beam therapy centre at The Christie.

A selection of the attendees of the National Joint Sarcoma Meeting 2018 in front of Gantry 3

A big welcome to our new senior radiographers

Since the beginning of May, the proton beam therapy team have welcomed five new senior radiographers. Some of them have made the transition from our radiotherapy department at The Christie, while others have relocated to join us in this new venture.   

When asked how she feels about the appointment, Rachael Bailey (senior radiographer) responded: "One of my goals at University was to work in proton beam therapy. Several years later, I have achieved my dream job in my local city! I am so proud to be part of the treatment team of this exciting development and I look forward to seeing how the patient service enhances further over time."

May 2018

Beam on  

The milestone of the first proton beam delivery from a treatment gantry has been reached. 

Protons have now travelled from the cyclotron, down the beam line and into Gantry 1. 

This monumental stage in the project is down to the hard work of the project’s engineers. The project is moving ever close to treating our first patient. 

First patient volunteer MRI Scans

The pre-treatment radiographers have conducted the first patient volunteer MRI scans for proton beam therapy in the UK.

The completion of these scans will aid in the development of MRI scanning protocols.

The pre-treatment team have been working with Lynsey Cameron-Clark (Philips Applications Specialist) to build MRI sequences specific to proton beam therapy patients.

April 2018 

Annual Radiotherapy Service Leads UK 2018  

The Christie hosted the annual meeting of radiotherapy service leads from around the UK. 

The radiotherapy service leads had the opportunity to complete a short tour of the new facilities. 

James Donnelly, superintendent radiographer, said: “This has been a great opportunity to build relationships with colleagues from around the UK and to show the progress of the proton beam therapy service at The Christie.”  

Proton Beam is moving ever closer 

The Energy Selection System (ESS) has been under calibration for the past 4 weeks, this task is almost complete. The calibration occurs by placing a water tank into the beam line and taking a series of measurements. 

See the archived updates here