British brain tumour patient Ashya King is to start specialist proton treatment next week after undergoing tests at a clinic in the Czech Republic.
The five-year-old yesterday visited the Proton Therapy Centre Czech in Prague to see doctors for the first time following his family’s controversial journey across Europe to access the treatment.
The clinic said the youngster would undergo 30 sessions of proton therapy, starting next Monday.
It comes after a protracted legal battle over his care that saw his parents arrested in Spain and separated from him for several days as he stayed in hospital.
Brett and Naghmeh King triggered an international police search when they removed Ashya from Southampton General Hospital on 28 August to seek treatment abroad.
They were desperate for him to be given the proton therapy, which was not being made available to them on the NHS.
He was initially put under a wardship order, but this was lifted by a High Court judge on Monday, allowing the family to continue their journey to Prague.
Proton treatment is a type of radiation therapy that uses beams of protons – small parts of atoms – rather than high- energy X-rays, as with conventional radiotherapy.
The protons can be precisely directed at a tumour, which means – unlike conventional treatments – the beams stop once they hit the target, rather than carrying on through the body.
This means that healthy tissue is not affected, which is particularly important in young patients.
Ashya was flown by private jet from Spain to Prague ahead of being seen by doctors.
The youngster had an MRI scan at the centre ahead of plans being made for his treatment.
After tests on Ashya were completed, the clinic said in a statement: “If all goes well, and the physicists will be able to prepare Ashya’s irradiation plan in four days instead of the standard ten days, he will start the first irradiation on Monday.
“His plan takes 30 irradiation visits and is combined with chemotherapy.”
It is expected the treatment will take around five weeks, with Ashya travelling to the clinic from the nearby Motol Hospital.
Speaking after arriving in Prague, Mr King said the family were “just so happy to be here”.
“This is what we wanted from the beginning. Things went from bad to worse at one stage,” he said.
“We just want the best for Ashya. He’s got to get through this, he’s got to get better.”
A small number of patients receive NHS funding for proton beam therapy abroad where it is deemed clinically appropriate.
But it is understood that, in some cases, patients are not considered well enough to travel, meaning that conventional radiotherapy in the UK is seen as their best chance.
Plans have been announced to create two proton therapy centres in Manchester and London, but these will not be ready for use until 2018.