When four-year-old Blackpool girl Skye Brierley was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour, her family was devastated to discover there was no operation that could save her.
Her parents, Michael and Ruth, jetted their little girl off to Florida for proton beam therapy – an advanced form of radiotherapy that targets certain tumours more precisely than previous treatments.
The family spent nine weeks in the US and Skye had 31 rounds of treatment, which was not available on the NHS at the time.
Two years on, Skye’s cancer, called embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, is now stable. Now six years old, she has gone back to school and received regular check-ups at Manchester Children’s Hospital.
Her parents have now spoken out in support of a huge cash boost from Cancer Research UK into new radiotherapy technologies that could help more people survive cancer in the future.
The Cancer Research UK Manchester Centre is set to receive £16.5 million over the next five years.
Michael, of Belvere Avenue, said: “Skye is living proof of how effective proton therapy treatment can be.
“You don’t expect to be told your child has cancer – it was devastating for all the family. Thanks to pioneering treatment and advances in science, Skye is now doing really well. But without the scientific research that developed proton beam therapy, things could have turned out very differently.
“We are very pleased that funding is going into radiotherapy research just down the road in Manchester. We are extremely grateful to scientists here in the North West, who are developing cutting-edge treatments that will go on to save the lives of more people like Skye.”
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: “Radiotherapy is a cornerstone of cancer medicine, with around three in 10 patients receiving it as part of their treatment. The launch of our network marks a new era of radiotherapy research in the UK.”