Australian hospital announces groundbreaking cancer trials

The Royal Adelaide Hospital will run trials testing new technology on cancer patients. Source: Getty

An Australian hospital is set to carry out groundbreaking trials which could change the way cancer is treated.

Lung and ovarian cancer patients in particular could reap the benefits of the latest study by the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) scheduled to begin early next year, The Advertiser reports.

The trial, which is planned with the support of AusHealth, will use antibody technology to target cancer cells with radiation and emit a signal which can be picked up on scans. This will enable researchers to see how well chemotherapy is working to fight against the cancer.

“If this works well, then in a separate trial we can test how well the antibodies, which carry a higher dose of radiation, can destroy the living cancer cells that surround the dead cancer cells targeted by radiation,” Professor Michael Brown from the RAH Cancer Clinical Trials Unit said.

Initially the trials will only be carried out on lung and ovarian cancer patients, however, Brown said the process may in the future be used to boost the effectiveness of other cancer treatments.

Researchers across the world are continually working hard to discover new ways to fight against cancer and reduce the risk of death.

Bowel cancer is one of Australia’s most common cancers. In fact, each year around 17,000 Australians are diagnosed with the disease and around 93 per cent of those are aged over 50.

But it’s not all bad news as death from bowel cancer is preventable through early detection, and recent research led by the University of South Australia (UniSA) found that bowel cancer screening actually reduces the risk of fatality by up to 45 per cent.

Data from the study of 12,906 bowel cancer patients, published in BMC Cancerfound that faecal occult blood testing (FOBT) with a follow-up colonoscopy plays a key role in catching the disease early, before symptoms appear – this is key as most people with colorectal cancer, as it’s also known, experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

According to Cancer Council Australia, bowel cancer develops from the inner lining of the bowel and is usually preceded by small growths called polyps. The latest Australian stats show 5,375 people died of bowel cancer in 2016 and there were 15,604 new cases of bowel cancer in Australia in 2015.

Researchers from UniSA’s Cancer Epidemiology and Population Health found that having one pre-diagnostic colonoscopy was associated with a 17 per cent reduction in the number of deaths, two pre-diagnostic colonoscopy procedures was associated with a 27 per reduction and 45 per cent for three or more.

Meanwhile, the study revealed that 37 per cent of the 12,906 patients analysed had pre-diagnostic colonoscopies and were more likely to live longer than those who were diagnosed after experiencing bowel cancer symptoms.

Ming Li, one of the study leaders, said those patients who had pre-diagnostic colonoscopies showed a “significant increase” in survival. “The risk of colorectal cancer death reduces step-wise with increasing numbers of colonoscopy examinations before symptoms appear, cutting the mortality rate from 17 per cent to 45 per cent,” she said.

“Our findings show the value of the National Bowel Screening Program which is now being rolled out to everyone in Australia over the age of 50 on a two-yearly basis. It involves doing a simple, non-invasive faecal occult blood test (FOBT) which, if positive, is followed up with a colonoscopy.”

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