Ashya King, a five-year old boy, suffering from a severe type of brain cancer has made it to news headlines after the controversy surrounding the type of treatment he should receive. A UK-based charity has now agreed to pay a huge amount of money required for Ashya to get proton beam treatment, which is believed to be more effective than current treatments.
Doctors have confirmed that Ashya is suffering from medulloblastoma, a rare and highly malignant type of primary brain tumor. Doctors suggested Ashya should have conventional radiotherapy, but Ashya's parents did not want their son to get this type of treatment. Instead, Ashya's parents wanted him to undergo proton bean therapy, which is considered more effective.
Ashya's parents objected to conventional radiotherapy and removed him from the hospital without the permission of the doctors. The parents took him to France and then to Spain to find alternate treatments for their son; however, they were arrested following an international chase by the Hampshire Police department.
Ashya's parents submitted a medical plan to a High Court judge who ordered that Ashya could get proton beam treatment, which is currently not offered by the National Health Service (NHS). The cost of the treatment, which is estimated to be around £150,000 and done in a Prague clinic, will be donated by Kids 'n' Cancer UK.
The NHS explains that conventional radiotherapy involves the usage of radiation, which terminates cancerous cells. However, this process can also lead to damage of the surrounding tissues, which can cause nausea or disrupt the function of other organs.
Proton beam therapy involves the usage of proton beams to kill cancerous cells, but it does minimal damage to the surrounding tissues.
"Unlike conventional radiotherapy, in proton beam therapy the beam of protons stops once it 'hits' the cancerous cells. This means that proton beam therapy results in much less damage to surrounding tissue," explains NHS.
Proton beam treatment is believed to be effective in treating many types of cancer, where it is important to reduce the damage caused to the surrounding tissues in both adults and children. NHS explains that this type of treatment can be effective in the treatment of brain tumors in children, whose brains are still developing.
However, proton beam treatment may not be prescribed for all cancer patients. Cancer Research UK suggests that only around 1 percent of cancer patients may be suitable for this type of treatment.
Proton beam treatment is currently not available in the UK. NHS hints that it is working to open two proton beam centers: one in London and the other in Manchester. However, these will only become operational from 2018.