UK & World News

  • 31 August 2014, 18:13

Ashya's Parents Wanted Proton Beam Treatment

The parents of Ashya King have said they removed him from a Southampton hospital because they were unable to get a specialist treatment on the NHS.

In a YouTube video, Brett King said they were hoping to get to the Czech Republic to seek proton beam radiotherapy for their five-year-old son.

The treatment is currently only available to treat eye conditions on the NHS in the UK, but is already being used by European countries and in the US for a range of cancers in adults and children.

It differs from X-ray methods by focusing proton beams more precisely at cancer cells, with doses aimed directly at the tumour, and spares the healthy tissue and organs behind it.

Speaking in the video, Mr King said: "It zones in on the area, whereby normal radiation passes through his head and comes out the other side and destroys everything in his head.

"We pleaded with them (in Southampton) for proton beam treatment. They looked at me straight in the face and said with his cancer - which is called medulloblastoma - it would have no benefit whatsoever."

Ros Barnes, whose son Alex went to the US after he was unable to get beam therapy in the UK for his brain tumour, said she would do the same thing as Ashya's family.

She told Sky News: "We were told the same thing, that Alex's tumour wasn't suitable for proton therapy by the NHS here in this country.

"The alternative here was radiotherapy, and he was only four years old at the time it would have caused extreme brain damage and probably wouldn't have worked either. So yes, I would have done the same as this family.

"They wanted us to have the operation here and for him to have radiotherapy, but he would have been blind, brain damaged and in a wheelchair, if he survived, and his prognosis was terrible."

David Langton-Gilks died in 2012 aged 16 from the same medulloblastoma after receiving treatment at the same Southampton General Hospital.

His mother Sacha said more research was desperately needed into the disease.

She said: "I did not want to hear what they had to say, often, and I wanted to run away. You could hear the planes going over the hospital from the airport behind you could see the ferries leaving from the children's cancer ward.

"And it's like - 'get us out of here, this just can't be right for children, surely there's a better way?'

"Unfortunately, the only better way is research... we've got to get better treatments for these children because what's available now is limited, it has horrendous side effects and I'm so sorry for the Kings."

Professor Justin Stebbing, consultant oncologist at Imperial College in London, told Sky News trials on proton beam treatment had yet to be completed.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Decisions on treatment for individual patients are made by doctors who are best placed to know what their patient needs.

"We are investing 250m in new proton beam therapy facilities, in Manchester and in London, and more people are being funded to go overseas until facilities are available in the UK."

A spokesperson for NHS England added the NHS supported 99 children to travel abroad last year for proton beam therapy. The treatment costs an average 100,000 per patient, it added.

The only current proton beam facility is in Clatterbridge Centre for Cancer NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool.

Ashya's parents are facing extradition to the UK after they were arrested in Malaga at 9pm UK time on Saturday.

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