Preliminary data shows a tumour-shrinking potential, increasing survival and enabling some patients, who have been inoperable, to have surgery.

Key facts

  • More than 4,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Australia each year
  • 80% are inoperable by the time they are diagnosed
  • First time “special access” treatment is available to private patients

Epworth HealthCare has become the first private hospital group in Australia to offer a new pancreatic cancer treatment.

About a third of pancreatic cancer patients have locally advanced tumours surrounding blood vessels near the pancreas, preventing upfront surgery.

Trial radiotherapy treatment

Patients, with locally advanced tumours, a novel radiotherapy treatment which is provided through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme.

Associate Professor Andrew Metz, Director of the Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth, said the P32 radiation particles are injected into the tumour during an endoscopic ultrasound.

“Over the next three months, the radiation particles give a really high, targeted dose of radiation just to the tumour,” A/Prof Metz said.

“Just delivering the radiation into the tumour limits the effect to structures surrounding the pancreas, avoiding a whole lot of side effects.”

Treatment provides other options

Radiation kills the cancer cells and, in some patients, it reduces the size of the tumour to make traditional surgery a viable option.

A/Prof Metz said early data indicates this treatment could increase the survival time for some pancreatic cancer patients.

“Until now, these patients would have undergone systemic chemotherapy if they are fit, with potential for many side effects. Preliminary data about this new treatment shows a tumour-shrinking potential, increasing survival and enabling some patients, who have been inoperable, to have surgery. As the radiation only reaches the tumour, it is better tolerated.”

Younger pancreatic cancer patients

Typically, pancreatic cancer affects men slightly more than women and it is typically diagnosed in those aged in their 60s or 70s.

Researchers at the Jreissati Family Pancreatic Centre (JFPC) at Epworth are noticing a new group of patients – younger women in their 30s and 40s.

The first Epworth patient to be treated is a 42-year-old woman.

Upset stomach

The woman (who has requested anonymity) went to her GP with stomach pain and bloating.

“I felt quite full after eating a banana, so went to the GP as I felt something wasn’t quite right,” she said.

“I had several scans and blood tests but they all came back normal. My GP suggested taking probiotics or changing my diet and coming back in a few weeks if it did not improve.”

The woman returned to her GP as the problem was still lingering.

“I underwent more scans and an MRI, which showed the lump in the pancreas.”

The Epworth Medical Foundation is funding the treatment for ten patients, at a cost of $100,000.

The Jreissati Family Pancreatic Centre at Epworth is supporting each patient.

Epworth is also involved in an Australian-first study into the use of electrodes known as NanoKnife. NanoKnife uses electrical pulses to puncture nanometre-sized holes in the tumours, causing cancer cells to die.

More information: The Jreissati Family Pancreatic Centre at Epworth

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Jreissati Family Pancreatic Centre at Epworth

The purpose of the Jreissati Family Pancreatic Centre at Epworth is to help people with pancreatic cancer. We achieve this by inspiring hope and providing the best possible care to patients. We also focus on getting patients an appointment with a specialist within 72 hours of referral.


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