Catalonia set to have two proton accelerators for cancer treatment

Within four years, ten proton therapy systems will be installed across Spain, an innovative and extremely precise treatment

Archive image of a patient undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer (by Catalan Health Department)
Archive image of a patient undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer (by Catalan Health Department) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

October 20, 2021 06:07 PM

The Spanish health ministry, together with their Catalan counterpart and the health departments of six regional governments across Spain, have signed an agreement with the Amancio Ortega Foundation to develop a plan which will see proton therapy introduced to the public health system.

According to the plan, within four years, ten proton radiotherapy systems will be installed, including two in Catalonia. Catalan health authorities say the equipment, which requires a minimum space of 1,500m2, will be housed in Pere Vigili Health Park in Barcelona. They estimate that around 200 patients could benefit in the first year alone.

Proton therapy is an innovative tool used especially in the treatment of pediatric patients and increasingly in adults too. Other proton therapy systems are to be installed in Madrid (two units), Seville, Malaga, Valencia, A Coruña, Biscay (Basque Country) and the Canary Islands.

Several Catalan hospitals and institutions will take part in a project to develop precise methods to examine and treat tumors using proton technology. They are Vall d'Hebron Hospital, Sant Joan de Déu Hospital in Esplugues, the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO), Hospital Clínic and the Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. The aim is to have a proton treatment center within the Catalan public oncology network that would be accessible to patients in need.

A very precise treatment tool

Proton therapy is a form of radiation therapy that is currently used mainly in pediatric oncology, as well for skull base tumors in adults. The main benefit for children is that compared to conventional radiotherapy, proton therapy is less toxic and causes fewer secondary tumors. Clinical results show that pediatric proton therapy may be advantageous both in terms of the likelihood of successful treatment and the improvement in patients' quality of life.

To date, proton therapy treatments for adults have much more limited applications, although they are expected to increase in the future. It is used mainly for tumors located in complicated locations, including at the base of the skull.

Until now proton therapy was an exceptional treatment that had to be authorized. Patients are normally transferred to France, Switzerland, Germany or Italy.