ADVANCED cancer treatment has taken a huge leap forward following the arrival of a proton beam therapy system.

An unveiling ceremony was held on Wednesday for the £30million Rutherford Cancer Centre at Thames Valley Science Park.

The facility is the first of its kind to be introduced in the south of England and will be able to treat 500 patients every year, with the first proton beam therapy patients expected to be treated in 2019.

The core elements of the proton beam therapy system were lowered into position this week and the centre is due to open its doors later this month for treatments such as radiotherapy.

Mike Moran, chief executive officer of Proton Partners International, said: “It is wonderful to see another of our centres move closer to providing proton beam therapy treatment here in the UK.

"The Rutherford Cancer Centre Thames Valley is particularly exciting. The close proximity to London and Heathrow allows for it to become a hub for patients in the south of England or those travelling to the UK for treatment.”

Proton beam therapy is a form of radiotherapy and involves using high energy beams of radiation to destroy cancerous cells.

Sir John Madejski and Councillor John Kaiser, the Mayor of Wokingham, attended the ceremony and spoke with experts about how the facility will change lives.

Cllr Kasier added: "It is an honour to be here today to see proton beam therapy move closer to arriving in this part of the country.

"The introduction of this treatment at the Rutherford Cancer Centre Thames Valley will mean that those in Reading and in its surroundings are able to access proton therapy right here in their own town.

"With the centre based in the Thames Valley Science Park, it is also great to see Berkshire continue to emerge on the global stage as a biotech and science hub.”

Until recently, many cancer patients had to travel overseas to receive this sort of treatment.

The Reading centre will be the first in Europe to feature state-of-the-art technology, such as the Natural Light Window System, to improve the experience for patients.