Ground-breaking proton beam therapy trial launches for cancer patients

For the first time ever in the UK, researchers are testing the benefits of proton beam therapy for breast cancer patients as part of a new trial funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

The PARABLE trial will compare proton beam therapy with standard radiotherapy in patients who face a greater risk of long-term heart problems following their radiotherapy treatment.

Researchers hope that by using more precise charged particles instead of x-rays, patients will still get the desired therapeutic results, whilst also facing a minimised amount of errant radiation delivered to other parts of their body, especially the heart.

The trial will evaluate 192 people across more than 20 sites in the UK – including The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Professor Jonathan Wadsley, National Specialty Lead for Radiotherapy and Imaging at the NIHR, said: "The UK is currently leading the way in developing the evidence base to demonstrate when proton beam radiotherapy can provide significant clinical benefit to some patients over conventional radiotherapy.

"It is exciting to see the launch of the first trial aiming to demonstrate the benefit of this treatment for a subset of patients with breast cancer."

Whilst the efficacy of proton beam therapy when treating breast cancer has been trialled in other countries, the cohorts have been small and there are no reported trials that directly compare proton beam therapy with standard radiotherapy.

The trial will draw upon the expertise of researchers from the University of Cambridge, The Institute of Cancer Research, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Anna Kirby, who is the Radiotherapy Lead for the PARABLE trial and has roles at both The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research, added: “It has been a monumental collaborative effort between patient advocates and professionals working in breast cancer radiotherapy research throughout the UK and beyond to develop, secure funding for, and now launch this trial.

“We have already learnt a huge amount about how to optimise and standardise current breast cancer radiotherapy practices alongside optimising proton beam therapy approaches. We hope that the PARABLE trial will help us to further personalise radiotherapy treatments and ensure that people can access the radiotherapy approach that is best for them, regardless of where they live.”

To learn more about the PARABLE trial, click here.

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