A £32million state-of-the-art cancer treatment facility in Northumberland is set to be opened in May.
The announcement in relation to The Rutherford Cancer Centre at the Earth Balance wellness site in Bomarsund, near Bedlington, was made earlier today when the first proton beam therapy system to be installed in the North East was delivered.
The 55-tonne cyclotron at the Proton Partners International Ltd facility, which will be part of a network of centres, is being installed and maintained by IBA (Ion Beam Applications S.A.). It generates the protons used in proton beam therapy treatment.
The centre will also provide chemotherapy, radiotherapy and imaging, they will be available when it opens. It is hoped the proton treatment will begin by the end of the year.
Mike Moran, chief executive of Proton Partners International, said the key driver for establishing the privately-funded network was providing additional support for patients.
He added: “We are very proud to be bringing proton beam therapy to the North East and the arrival of the machine is a significant milestone for this centre.
“When we were looking for suitable sites, a businessman involved with Earth Balance invited me to have a look and I felt it was ideal in terms of the holistic nature of the surrounding area, which is important when it comes to cancer treatment.
“Northumberland County Council provided great support and confidence in the project and this was a big factor in us choosing Bomarsund as one of our cancer centre locations.”
Treatment at the Rutherford Cancer Centres, the first in South Wales will treat patients with protons from next month, will be available to those who are referred by an NHS provider, as well as self-paying and medically insured patients.
The therapy uses a high-energy beam of protons rather than X-rays to deliver radiotherapy for patients, reducing the risk of damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.
The beam of protons stops once it 'hits' the cancerous cells.
Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of Proton Partners International, said: “The treatment has been around for a while, but new technology has enabled the machines to be smaller and this has reduced the cost of the buildings and protective sheltering around the equipment.
"As a result, projects such as this are more feasible and in the coming years, we hope that there will be more proton beam therapy centres in the UK to add to the ones currently being built.
"They will help the NHS because at the moment, it is having to send patients to the USA for the proton treatment."
County council leader Peter Jackson said: “For Northumberland, this is the most exciting development in the health services area that I can remember.
“We should be immensely proud of the fact that it will be one of the main centres for the treatment of cancer in the whole country.
"In the longer term, we are sure that this will attract high quality health services to this site and not only more skills, but higher end and higher paid jobs for people working at this site for many years to come.
"The huge investment in this site underlines how the health services offering in Northumberland is among the leaders on the national stage."