I felt I had indigestion. Two weeks later, when tablets for indigestion hadn’t worked, my GP requested I undergo a scan. The CT came back showing pancreatic cancer.

Key facts:

  • Almost 4,000 diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Australia each year
  • Only 11 percent survive to five years
  • Third biggest fatal cancer in Australia

An Australian-first study is underway to determine whether using electrical charges, to destroy pancreatic cancer cells, can lead to greater survival rates for some patients.

Pancreatic cancer is the third biggest fatal cancer and it’s expected to become the second biggest within a decade. Survival rates have changed little over the last 30 years.


The four-year DIRECT-INSPIRE study is looking at the use of Irreversible Electroporation (IRE) on otherwise inoperable pancreatic cancer.

With IRE, a surgeon implants several small electrodes or NanoKnife into the cancerous tumour. Electrical pluses are then used to puncture nanometre-sized holes in the tumour, causing cancer cells to die.

Consultant cancer surgeon Mr Brett Knowles said the NanoKnife gives surgeons an option to treat patients where the pancreatic cancer is intertwined with blood vessels.

“The NanoKnife is the only technology that allows us to destroy the pancreatic cancer without damaging vital structures like blood vessels and the bile duct,” Mr Knowles said.

The DIRECT-INSPIRE study using NanoKnife will focus on patients with pancreatic cancer that hasn’t spread to other parts of their body.

“There is a minority of patients who have pancreatic cancer, where the cancer doesn’t appear to be able to spread,” Mr Knowles said.

“With these patients, we can deliver effective local treatment with NanoKnife, giving them a safer option for an improved quality of life and survival rate.”

First patient has surgery

Strathmore Heights woman, Jill Forbes was the first patient to undergo NanoKnife surgery for pancreatic cancer at Epworth Freemasons as part of the study.

Diagnosed in December 2020, she underwent chemotherapy earlier this year and has had surgery using the NanoKnife to destroy the tumour.

She said it was fortunate the cancer was discovered, thanks to the efforts of her GP.

“I felt I had indigestion,” Mrs Forbes said.

“Two weeks later, when tablets for indigestion hadn’t worked, my GP requested I undergo a scan. The CT came back showing pancreatic cancer.”

Mrs Forbes is continuing her treatment.

Jreissati Family Pancreatic Cancer Centre

Earlier this year the Jreissati Family Pancreatic Centre at Epworth was established to streamline care, improve education and pioneer new diagnosis and treatment options for people with pancreatic disease.

Once referred to the Jreissati Family Pancreatic Centre at Epworth, you will have an appointment to see one of our experienced specialists within 72 hours.


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