Proton Therapy treatment, one of the world’s most sophisticated forms of cancer treatment, will be provided at the Tata Memorial Centre’s (TMC) ACTREC Kharghar centre by mid-2021. The installation of the proton beam therapy machine is almost complete and the TMC expects about 800 patients to be treated every year, of whom 50 per cent will be treated free of cost.
The treatment modality, called 'Proton Therapy', will be the first of its kind in the public sector in India. The ambitious project is being executed in association with the IBA, Belgium.
“The Proton Beam Therapy machine provides sub-millimetre precision in destroying cancer cells. It ensures precision tumour targeting, with minimal collateral damage to normal and vital tissues,” said Dr Siddhartha Laskar, deputy Director Academics (TMC) Parel, who is also overseeing the project. He added that they were expecting to offer the procedure by June or July 2021.
Rakesh Pathak, Director, IBA India, said that the accelerator at Kharghar facility is the largest medical accelerator in the country and it had been commissioned in a record time of six months, during the peak of the pandemic.
Around 1,100 tonnes of equipment was installed in less than six months from January 30, 2020 to July 31, 2020. “Despite all odds, during the COVID period the team from IBA and TMC put in extra effort and successfully installed all the machines. It not only saved money, but around a year in time, in which patients can begin treatment,” said Pathak.
Despite there being a travel ban, flying ban, monsoon knocking at the door, the cyclone and above all, fear of the pandemic, the teams from the IBA and TMC put in extra hours to execute the project. “We took special permission from various states and Navi Mumbai Police and brought in technicians from various parts of the country. We set up a special quarantine centre at ACTREC Kharghar, for the technicians,” said Pathak.
The machine was brought in from Belgium and the1,100-metric tonne equipment had just begun rigging operations on January 29, 2020, and was just half-rigged when the pandemic struck. “Getting everyone on board, from labourers to technicians from different parts of the country was a challenge during the pandemic. However, great coordination among all stakeholders made it possible,” said Laskar.
Treatment cost and features:
The cost of proton therapy treatment ranges between Rs 30 lakh and Rs 1.5 crore for the entire course. At present, only a private hospital in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, has the facility.
Since TMC works under the Department of Atomic Energy, the cost of treatment will be subsidised and even free for economically weaker sections.
Children will get priority for treatment.
The total cost of the project is around Rs 550 crore.
Proton therapy is used for cancers of the skull base, prostate, spine, brain, liver, breasts, head and neck, among other types of cancers. It can also be used for tumours that recur in areas previously treated with standard radiation
Difference between proton and standard radiation therapy: Standard radiation therapy uses X-rays (photons) which deliver radiation to other areas, apart from the tumour and affect healthy cells. However, proton beams can be adjusted to deliver most of the energy to the target point or tumour.