WA team treat heart disease with cancer therapy


Friday, 07 August, 2020


WA team treat heart disease with cancer therapy

Cardiologists and radiation oncologists from Perth’s Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) and GenesisCare have treated a heart disease patient with a non-invasive technology most commonly used to treat cancer. The team of doctors used SABR (stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy) to treat a patient with a life-threatening arrhythmia known as ventricular tachycardia (VT), which causes improper electrical activity in the heart that results in a rapid heart rate and cardiac arrest.

SABR is a targeted treatment most commonly used to deliver high doses of radiation to kill tumours without exposing surrounding healthy tissue. The technique allows doctors to target areas of the heart, not accessible with conventional treatment, with precise beams of radiation.

Patient Sherralee McMahon is reported to be the second person in Australia to access this form of therapy. Prior to the procedure, McMahon suffered from multiple episodes of arrhythmia daily, ICD shocks and hospital admissions. Due to multiple c-morbidities, she was deemed unsuitable for a heart transplant.

The team consisted of cardiologist Dr Ben King, senior physicist Simon Goodall, radiation therapist Anna Ellison and radiation oncologist Dr Tee Lim. The procedure was carried out in close collaboration with Washington University of St Louis, where the technology was developed.

“Ventricular tachycardia can have a terrible impact on a patient’s quality of life, causing frequent heart palpitations, breathlessness, chest pain and painful defibrillator electric shocks. In some cases it can also lead to mental health issues,” Dr King explained.

“If left untreated, VT can be a serious life-threatening condition causing heart failure or cardiac arrest.

“Stereotactic ablative radiation therapy for patients with VT is a relatively new concept and has only been carried out on approximately 80 patients worldwide.

“SABR offers a viable non-invasive option for patients with cardiac arrhythmias who are too sick for invasive treatments or where other treatment options have been unsuccessful or inapplicable.

“Compared to surgical options, SABR is a completely non-invasive treatment which takes only between 10 and 20 minutes, meaning patients can return home to their loved ones as soon as possible,” Dr King said.

The procedure was carried out at Fiona Stanley Hospital in mid-July and the patient has experienced a promising response to date.

“The patient is recovering well and is actually looking to travel to Broome in the next week for some much-needed sunshine and family time,” Dr King said.

Dr Lim said, “It was fantastic partnering with our cardiologists to offer stereotactic radiation therapy to Sherralee and I’m looking forward to collaborating on many more of these procedures in the years to come.

“Cancer and heart disease are two of the biggest health burdens facing this country, so to find a treatment that is effective for both of these patient populations is absolutely fantastic.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/maxsim

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