Epworth the first private hospital to offer pancreatic cancer treatment

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

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

Patients with locally advanced tumours will be offered a novel radiotherapy treatment provided through the TGA's Special Access Scheme.

According to Associate Professor Andrew Metz, the director of the Jreissati Pancreatic Centre at Epworth, 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,” he said.

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

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

Associate Professor 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 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.”

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 say they 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.