Epworth has become the first private hospital group in Australia to offer a new pancreatic cancer treatment, and it’s only possible thanks to the Epworth Medical Foundation.

About a 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 which is provided through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Special Access Scheme.

Associate Professor Andrew Metz, Centre Director of the Jreissati Family 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.”

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 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.”

First patient to receive new treatment

The first Epworth patient to be treated with the novel radiotherapy treatment is a 42-year-old woman. 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 this treatment for ten patients, at a cost of $100,000.

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

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