Sydney man receives innovative oncology treatment

Thursday, 23 July, 2020

Sydney man receives innovative oncology treatment

Rod Brooks, a retired principal in Sydney’s North Ryde, has become the first person in NSW to receive highly targeted cancer therapy using an MR-Linac at the GenesisCare oncology centre within St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst.

Reported to be the first centre in NSW and the second in Australia to offer treatment using the Elekta Unity MR-Linac, the treatment combines a state-of-the-art MRI imaging scanner and a linear accelerator to allow treatment specialists to see tumours and adapt treatment in real time.

The MR-Linac is available to treat patients with prostate or oligometastatic cancer, with treatment of additional tumour types to be introduced in the future.

Rod Brooks (68) was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May 2020 after a blood test returned elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. This was the second time Rod was told he had cancer, having been diagnosed and treated for bowel cancer in 2007.

“I get regular check-ups and blood tests to check my bowel cancer is still in remission, so you can imagine my surprise when the doctor told me that I had cancer again.

“Prostate cancer surgery wasn’t really an option for me after my bowel cancer operation, so I was grateful there were non-invasive treatments that would allow me to keep active and out of hospital,” Brooks said.

Shortly after his bowel cancer diagnosis, Rod became the primary carer for his wife, Kerry, who had multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease of the brain and spinal cord, for which there is no cure. She passed away in 2018.

“I have survived bowel cancer and the invasive treatments that went with it, and then lost my wife two years ago. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May, I thought ‘oh no, not again, what else can happen to me?’, but you just have to stay positive.

“Part of staying positive is keeping active and doing the things you love — for me that’s competitive sailing and playing golf with friends. Continuing these throughout my treatment is really important to me,” Brooks said.

The MR-Linac system is the latest advancement in stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), a non-invasive type of radiation therapy that delivers radiation from a source outside the body. While it is generally administered daily for several weeks (between 20–40 sessions in total), SRBT allows clinicians to deliver a higher dose of radiation across five or fewer daily sessions.

GenesisCare MR-Linac Lead Radiation Oncologist Dr Jeremy de Leon said, “Many tumours are located in organs that move during or between radiation treatment sessions. Tumours can also be located near sensitive organs or tissues, such as the bladder or bowel, so we need to be able to precisely deliver radiation within millimetres, so we target the tumour and not other organs.

“The MR-Linac enables clinicians to visualise the tumour during treatment and adapt to changes in tumour size and location. This allows us to target cancer more precisely and deliver highly personalised therapy each time a patient is treated,” Dr de Leon said.

“This adaptive patient care in radiation therapy helps to minimise exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and may result in reduced treatment-related side effects, less treatment sessions and fewer visits to the hospital, thereby reducing the overall burden on patients.”

GenesisCare CEO Dan Collins said, “More than ever in these challenging times, we want to ensure that cancer patients across New South Wales and right around the world receive the right care when it’s needed. This is why we are continuing our investment in the latest technology through our partnership with Elekta.

“The Elekta Unity is a significant step forward for patients with complex cancers. It will allow us to expand treatment options for many people living with cancer across the state. Our wonderful physicians and team members at our centre at St Vincent’s in Sydney are passionate innovators, and this system will enable them to realise outcomes for patients beyond what was possible before. We will also foster new research, techniques and innovation based around the huge potential of image-guided radiation therapy,” Collins said.

Elekta Acting President and Chief Financial Officer Gustaf Salford said, “With a shared focus on patient-centric care, we are uniting with GenesisCare to ensure treating clinicians can access the latest innovations in adaptive radiation therapy technology for their patients.”

Image caption: Patient in MR-Linac machine.

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