An Australian-first study is underway to determine whether using electrical charges to destroy pancreatic cancer cells can lead to improved survival rates for some patients.
Pancreatic is the third most fatal cancer and survival rates have changed little over the last 30 years.
The four-year DIRECT-INSPIRE study is investigating 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 pulses are then used to puncture nanometre-sized holes in the tumour. This can cause 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,” he said.
The DIRECT-INSPIRE study using NanoKnife will focus on patients with pancreatic cancer that has not spread to other parts of the body.
“There is a minority of patients who have pancreatic cancer, where the cancer doesn’t appear to be able to spread,” said Mr Knowles.
“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.”
Strathmore Heights woman, Jill Forbes, was the first patient to undergo NanoKnife surgery for pancreatic cancer 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,” said Mrs Forbes.
“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.