First sun rays and new hope from Prague to Hungary

Timea is a young 18 years old lady from a small city in Hungary.
Both Timea and her mother say that they are really happy to be here in Prague, especially because they found PTC Czech themselves when searching the Internet.

“My daughter's symptoms started in the middle of September 2014 with a strong, increasing headache. The results of the brain MRI scan were not unambiguous so the doctors decided to do a biopsy. This biopsy showed signs of inflammation, but no other signs confirmed it. And since even the use of antibiotics did not bring any relief, the doctors decided for another biopsy. The biopsy prove a rather rare brain tumour called diffuse astrocytoma. It was just the beginning of December. Doctors in Szombathely referred Timea for conventional radiotherapy. The problem was that the she would have only been able to start the treatment in January 2015. “We did not want to wait so we went home and took time to think about it.”

After that, interesting circumstances started to come: “The pastor from the local church send me a message. It was a sentence from the book of Psalms, saying: ‘For the person who fears the Lord, he will show the way to choose.’ Two hours later, after a short searching I found PTC mentioned in an article about the plans to build a new proton center in Debrecen!” says Timea's mother with en excited voice.
“We emailed the PTC the same day and got a reply the next morning, sent the necessary documents and MRI scans followed by other documents… And then we heard from you that we could come to Prague!“ But there was one more necessary requirement to be fulfilled. Since Timea was still 17, she had to get a recommendation for treatment by irradiation from her paediatric oncologist. This was necessary for the PTC to approve proton therapy for her but also for the National Health Foundation in Hungary to pay for her treatment. “This turned out well, even though it cost a lot of effort”, says Timea’s mother who was almost ready to sell the family house had this not turned out well. “After all, we are so happy to be here”, she adds.

Timea's treatment was scheduled for 30 fractions in 6 weeks. She is staying in an apartment with her mother. Timea has been mostly fine except some feelings of nausea or weak appetite due to the location and seriousness of the tumour.

“We are really satisfied with your staff; your doctors are very kind, careful and explain everything. We also made some friendships with other patients here and spoke some Hungarian with the Slovaks and so”, smiles Timea’s mother. In the end, they were both able to enjoy the first bits of spring and catch the some of the first sun rays in Prague.

We at the PTC do not only hope but also do everything possible to ensure that proton therapy will bring new springs of hope and strong chances of a cure to Timea and other oncology patients from Hungary.


Proton Therapy Maintains Quality of Life for Teresa From UK

Teresa (43) from England was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a serious type of brain tumour, and was given the devastating news this year that she only had 6-12 weeks to live. She went to Prague for a special treatment known as proton therapy.

Teresa did not give up however and, together with her husband, contacted a UK based patient charity which referred them to the Proton Therapy Center in Prague - the newest proton therapy clinic with world renowned specialists in radiation oncology and proton therapy. After sending her scans electronically, Teresa received a prompt reply from the specialists at the center approving her for a 3 week cancer treatment known as 'proton beam therapy'. It was said that this revolutionary cancer treatment can help her decrease the symptoms and improve the side effects of her cancer. There was one major obstacle though – after brain surgery Teresa could not fly. Fortunately, Prague being so close to the UK, she and her husband were able to leave and drive here over the weekend. A pleasant hotel was already arranged for her within walking distance of the center as part of the patient management service.

Teresa and her husband were pleasantly surprised to discover just how comfortable the experience was here in Prague, and the professionality of the centre: "The experience here at the Proton Therapy Center in Prague has been unbelievable really, everything feels so natural and comfortable, a lot different from going to a regular hospital back home. There you are one of many, and we are one of many here too, but the difference being that people here make you feel like you're the only one here. The staff put you at ease, people greet you every morning, the girls at the reception are wonderful, always caring and supportive. We have felt supported from the minute we first arrived, and it's not just from one person, it's from everyone."

Teresa was also impressed with the quality of the medical staff at the Proton Center in Prague, and praised them for the assistance they provided her: "Our doctor has been absolutely wonderful, and put us right at ease, made us feel that we could ask any question whatsoever - she was fabulous, and even followed us up with calls. And Prof. Herbst (medical director) has just been superb - he can explain things very clearly, and it enables me to ask questions about follow-up treatment like what to do next… and Prof. Herbst answered all those questions for us, and put us right at ease, and made us feel very comfortable."

Teresa's husband described the improvements his wife experienced, even during the treatment process itself: "At the start of treatment, back at the hotel, she would pick something off the menu, and sometimes she would have forgotten by the time the waiter had come to see her, what she actually wanted, and she'd look at me and ask - what did I want to order? And now, she's able to do that again. And that's incredible, this improvement has all happened in a 3 week period! "

Teresa herself noted that she felt much better during the proton therapy treatment process: "Even during treatment I have experienced improvements in terms of memory, speech, and many things. During our trip here, I could barely say anything, could barely speak, and last night I wrote a full SMS text message on my own. I could barely have spelt a single word 3 weeks ago. I've noticed improvements in memory, improvements in speech, and improvements in my ability to solve problems." Teresa also spoke of her Prague experience, which may be of interest to other UK citizens considering treatment at the Proton Therapy Center. Teresa visited the city center, the zoo and many other places during her stay. "There are plenty of things to do here in Prague. The treatment time is short, only 30 minutes per day, so we have a lot of free time for other things during the treatment process. "

Source: Proton Therapy Center, September 2013

One of our first patients came from Serbia 

In November 2011 Branka's doctors found a tumour on her skull base.
The sad news came that she had a 'chordoma' - a relatively rare tumour. MRI scans soon defined its size and scope. Although the tumor was benign,  it was pressing on the bones of the skull base and had spread through respiratory areas, and areas of swallowing, on its way into the brain - and was partially occluding two of the major cerebral arteries (arteries supplying blood to the brain). Because risk of damage to vital brain centres would be too high, her surgeons decided not to risk performing surgery (she was not a candidate for surgery because of a high risk to vital brain centres).

The next logical consideration was radiation treatment - however, considering the type and location of this tumour, it would not be easy to destroy. A high dose of radiation would be required, and this would also mean increasing the risk of unwanted radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. Unfortunately, conventional X-ray photon therapy in Branka's case was not possible. Although, in planning, the radiation oncologist tried various techniques (such as applying radiation from many angles and modulating the radiation beam), the computer results always warned that safe dose limits to important, sensitive brain structures would be exceeded. 

As a guiding principle, doctor's are obliged not to harm their patient's health. Conventional radiation would violate this principle and would be too dangerous for doctors to use. Her only chance was proton therapy, however this form of treatment is not currently available in her home country, Serbia.

Branka's goal however, was not to give up. She started to consider her financial resources, because Serbian health insurance does not cover oncology treatment abroad. She was left with no option but to sell her own apartment in the hope of paying for treatment. After two years, an opportunity struck her by chance. A friend living in the Czech Republic came to her with news that Prague had recently opened a new proton beam therapy center. Upon hearing this, Branka did not hesitate. After quickly communicating with specialists and confirming the suitability of proton therapy, she travelled by bus with her niece from her village in Gornja Crnuce in central Serbia to Prague. At the Centre she was met by dedicated patient managers who organised Serbian interpreter services, arranged her accommodation and transportation, and assisted her to settle in and be comfortable in Prague.

Her treatment lasted for two months, because her high dose treatments had to be administered piece by piece. She alternatively attended treatment and also had the opportunity to sightsee around Prague on days between treatment.

Due to the fact that proton therapy has minimal (or sometimes no) side effects she had the desire and physical strength to look around Prague between treatments. Even before completing treatment, her condition improved significantly. Prior to treatment Branka was almost impossible to understand when she spoke, but her speech improved as the tumour became smaller and stopped pressing her tongue to the right side. Her pain also started to disappear after a while, and she was better able to swallow - all this before even finishing her course of treatment. 

Branka felt very supported and cared for throughout her treatment, so she decided to describe her success story so that others could benefit from the new opportunity this treatment brings. "I feel better than ever before," said Branka to the staff that had cared for her throughout her treatment, as she left the facility for the final time, "and I can only hope that everything goes well."

  • Branka is due to have her follow up scans in Serbia shortly.
  • Our patient manager spoke with Branka's niece last week, and she was happy to report that Branka is feeling well.

Source: Proton Therapy Center, April 2013 

A long way to cure

The beat of a drum once again symbolises the end of treatment for 10 year old Tom*. He has completed proton therapy treatment for medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumour. This type of cancer is particularly suitable for proton therapy because radiation must be given near sensitive areas of the body - the brain and spinal cord.

Proton radiation is much more accurate and safer than other cancer treatment options - the tumour can be treated without damaging surrounding tissues of the body. He attended the Proton Therapy Center in Prague for a total of 30 treatments. He celebrated the end of his treatment last Friday with his family, doctors and staff from the Proton Therapy Center, and is looking forward to returning to school after he completes his final course of chemotherapy.

*Name changed

Source: Proton Therapy Center, June 2013

First Slovakian Girl Receiving Life-Saving Proton Therapy

Little Veronika is the first patient in Slovakia to receive proton therapy for for an orbital tumour (behind her eye). 7-year old Veronika underwent treatment at the proton therapy center in Prague for a period of five weeks. Her treatment was covered by the Slovakian government's general health insurance program.

Being a safer and more accurate form of cancer treatment, proton therapy allowed the doctors in Prague to more effectively protect sensitive structures in Veronika's affected eye socket during
treatment, namely - the retina, optic nerve, and the lacrimal gland that produces tears, as well as protecting surrounding sensitive brain tissue.

"Veronika tolerated the treatment extremely very well. During proton treatment she also received a course of chemotherapy, which she tolerated superbly." Said Dr. Branislav "Brano" Sepeši, paediatric radiation oncologist at Proton Therapy Center Prague.

So what's next for Veronika?
Veronika has returned home to Slovakia, and has once again commenced her schooling. She will return to the care of her treating paediatric oncologist and may likely receive follow-up chemotherapy, as a preventive measure following her successful proton treatment in Prague.

Surrounded by caring family and staff members, Veronika closed her time at PTC by playing a magical Professor Proton drum! This announced the end of Veronika's successful proton therapy treatment.

Source: Proton Therapy Center, June 2013