Researchers test new treatment for
OTTAWA – A $53,000
grant from Pancreatic Cancer Canada will enable a team of researchers
from The Ottawa Hospital to explore the use of a sophisticated new
machine to vaporize tumours with ultra high-radiation doses.
“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity,” Dr. Jason Pantarotto
(pictured), lead investigator of the groundbreaking study, said in
accepting the award. “We’re desperate for success in finding a localized
treatment for pancreatic cancer, and we couldn’t do it without funding
from Pancreatic Cancer Canada.”
Key to the project is The Ottawa Hospital’s acquisition of a CyberKnife,
which can deliver high doses of radiation with pinpoint accuracy. The
California-built machine, only the third to be installed in Canada, uses
robotic technology to compensate for even the smallest movements by the
patient. Dr. Pantarotto, a radiation oncologist, says this unique
feature increases the potential for treating a certain subset of
patients with otherwise incurable pancreatic cancer.
Nearly 4,000 Canadians are diagnosed every year with pancreatic cancer,
the most lethal form of the disease. There is no prevention, few
symptoms, and no early detection method.
By the time most tumours are found, they cannot be removed by surgery.
Conventional radiation is difficult to administer because of the organ’s
location. “The pancreas is tucked in at the entry to the liver, where
all the important arteries, veins and drainage ducts are located,” Dr.
Pantarotto explains, adding that the stomach, liver, kidney and bowel
are also nearby.
“The idea behind treatment with the CyberKnife is to miss all these
innocent bystanders. We think that if we can just administer a high
enough dose directly to the tumour, while sparing the delicate
surrounding tissue, then we can give those patients new hope.”
The CyberKnife is expected to help treat a variety of other cancers, as
well. Funds for the instrument are being raised by the Ottawa community
through The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. To date, the community has
donated $2.75 million of the $3.5 million needed.
For the first phase of his research project, Dr. Pantarotto plans to
recruit 30 patients whose tumours are at a particular stage. The
malignancy cannot have spread to other organs.
At the same time, however, it has to have grown to a point where surgery
is no longer an option. Betty Aldridge, founder and President of
Pancreatic Cancer Canada, said the award recognizes the urgency of
exploring innovative approaches to treating this disease, which takes
the lives of three quarters of patients within a year of diagnosis.
“We’re very fortunate that Dr. Pantarotto and his team have the skills,
knowledge and dedication to apply this remarkable new instrument in the
search for a cure for this devastating disease,” said Ms. Aldridge.
Pancreatic Cancer Canada was founded in 2006 to raise research funds and
awareness of the disease, and to support victims and their families with
information and other resources.
In addition to his role as a radiation oncologist at The Ottawa
Hospital, Dr. Pantarotto is also a clinical investigator at the Ottawa
Hospital Research Institute and an assistant professor in the Faculty of
Medicine at the University of Ottawa.
Posted September 23, 2010