A WOMAN whose life was saved by groundbreaking cancer treatment in America is helping to shape a new service offering the same treatment in the UK.

Sophie Vohra, 25, from the Hull Road area of York, was treated with high energy proton beam therapy in the US after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the bottom of her spine.

Following her successful treatment she has been asked to help shape the future of patient care at the new high energy proton beam therapy (PBT) centre, at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, which will be the first of only two centres to open in the UK.

Sophie, a PHD student at the University of York, started her treatment at The Christie in April 2015 after being diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma.

She said: “At the age of 23, one of the last things you expect to hear is that you have cancer. I had been suffering increasingly from bad pains and numbness down my right leg since the start of the year, which became so unbearable that I finally decided to visit my GP.

“Following various tests and investigations, I received my diagnosis and was referred to The Christie.”

After 14 cycles of chemotherapy, Sophie’s consultant put her forward for proton beam therapy in America, as her tumour was inoperable.

The very accurate form of radiotherapy avoids serious damage to surrounding tissue and can be used when the cancer has developed near a place in the body where damage would cause serious complications, such as the brain or optic nerve.

It is the type of treatment sought by the parents of Ashya King, who famously removed their son from a UK hospital in 2014 because he had not been offered proton beam therapy.

Sophie said: “Because of the location of my tumour, having surgery to remove it was high risk. I was very lucky to be put forward for proton beam therapy treatment in America.”

Sophie travelled to a specialist proton beam therapy centre in Jacksonville, Florida accompanied by her parents. She had two months of intensive treatment there combining PBT with chemotherapy five days a week.

“I can’t fault my treatment in America and the staff offered us all a lot of support but being so far away from home was isolating," she said, "Our support network of friends and wider family were no longer around the corner and that was the hardest thing I think, for us all.

“Having all of this available to me has meant I have received all the best opportunities to try and beat this horrible disease. I couldn’t be more grateful to The Christie for helping make it possible. I am now disease free and able to get on with my life and complete my PHD."

Sophie has joined a panel of former Christie patients, who have received proton beam therapy overseas in the US.

The group will share their experiences and ideas to help shape plans for the treatment and care offered at the new centre in Manchester.

She said: “I’m thrilled that I can use my experience of cancer and my treatment in America to help future patients at the new PBT centre at The Christie. I know it will be life-changing for future patients like me.”

The Christie proton beam therapy centre is expected to open in Autumn 2018 and will treat up to 750 patients per year at full capacity.