A Neil Woodford-backed Welsh biotech firm has treated its first UK cancer patient using pioneering proton beam therapy.
Proton Partners International delivered the treatment at the Rutherford Cancer Centre in Newport.
Woodford is a founding investor in Proton, teaming up with renowned oncology professor Karol Sikora and the Welsh Life Sciences Fund. In 2016, challenger bank Shawbrook agreed a £30m loan to the firm. Woodford's investment is worth around £65m, according to records published at the end of February.
Proton therapy is a treatment for cancers where it is essential to avoid damaging healthy tissue around a tumour.
“This is a landmark moment in UK cancer care and it is a significant step in transforming the way patients are treated," said Sikora.
The firm believes 10 per cent of the 150,000 UK cancer patients treated with radiation therapy could be better treated using its technology.
Proton Partners CEO Mike Moran said: “Until now, patients have to be sent to private clinics in the US or Switzerland to get this treatment at a cost of around £114,000.
By making the treatment available in the UK, the cost is significantly reduced but so is the effect long-distance travelling can have on patients and their families.
Sikora added: “Proton beam therapy has been available abroad for many years, so it is hugely important that the UK is now able to offer this type of cancer care. There is a debate around how many patients are suitable for proton beam therapy. We do know that proton beam therapy is effective in the treatment of children as it reduces damage to surrounding healthy tissue, and it is also proven to work in tackling hard-to-reach tumours.”