UF Proton Therapy Institute

Cancer expert to bring proton beam technology to south coast

A cancer specialist based at UHS is to become one of only a few in the UK to use a revolutionary radiotherapy treatment.

Dr Shanmugasundarum Ramkumar, a consultant clinical oncologist at Southampton General Hospital, has been awarded a visiting fellowship at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute in the US, where he will gain experience in delivering proton beam therapy.

The treatment, which uses high energy beams rather than x-rays to target cancers more accurately and protect surrounding tissue, can be more effective for some patients with rare tumours, such as skull base and spinal tumours, and children with complex cancers, but it is not yet available in the UK.

Patients are currently referred to one of three centres which offer the technique – one in Switzerland and two in the US – but the Department of Health has announced it will oversee the development of two proton beam centres in the UK over the next four years.

“While we are planning for the introduction of two proton beam centres here by 2017, there are currently only few clinicians in the UK trained in delivering the treatment,” explained Dr Ramkumar.

“Following a competitive national selection process, I have been selected to travel to one of the lead centres, based in Florida, to gain experience in proton therapy and disseminate that knowledge across the south of England.”

Last year, Dr Ramkumar introduced a similar technique, known as intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), at Southampton General to treat head and neck cancers.

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