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An advanced form of radiotherapy that reduces the risk of side effects in cancer patients will be available in the UAE for the first time when a Dh220 million health centre opens in Abu Dhabi in 2018.
Proton beam therapy, which uses protons rather than X-rays, is regarded as a safer way to treat hard-to-reach tumours because it causes less damage to surrounding tissue. It is used to treat many forms of the disease in situations where conventional options are limited and radiotherapy presents unacceptable risks to patient health, said Dr Mohanad Diab, consultant medical oncologist at NMC Specialty in Abu Dhabi.
“These situations include eye and brain cancers, tumours close to the brainstem and spinal cord, prostate, liver, lung and breast cancers, and paediatric cancers. It is very useful for children and it is used most often to treat brain tumours in young children whose brains are still developing,” he said.
The proton beam therapy centre in Al Shahamh will be part of the Gulf International Cancer Centre.
“At least 200 patients at our centre will benefit from proton beam and if we are the only centre in the area, there will be patients coming from neighbouring countries,” said Dr Aly Abdel Razek, executive director and head of radiation oncology at GICC,
Oncologists from the GICC will be sent for training to the US – where there are about 25 centres offering this treatment – to learn about the technology.
Many children will be helped by the technique, said Dr Razek. He gave an example of when doctors are treating cancer in a child’s spinal cord, proton beams treat the problem area without affecting the heart or the lungs.
“About 10 to 20 per cent of the cancer patients who receive radiation therapy can benefit from the use of proton beam.”
Proton therapy is not widely available because of its high cost. There are only a limited number of centres in the world that can deliver the treatment.
At the moment, patients in the UK who require this type of radiotherapy are sent for treatment in the US, according to Cancer Research UK.
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