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A trojan horse for cancer

A large oncology study has found that resin beads that emit radiation can give patients who have inoperable liver cancer new hope.


BY:
Eleanor Yap

Microspheres were able to target the caner without damaging healthy liver tissues.

Resin particles or microspheres that are one-third the width of human hair could be the answer to helping patients with inoperable liver cancer. A recent study done by Australia-based medical device company, Sirtex Medical, found that by adding these microspheres to the current standard first-line chemotherapy regimen for colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver, patients had an increased tumour control in the liver by 7.9 months.

The microspheres called the SIR-Spheres Y-90 resin were able to target the cancer without damaging healthy liver tissues and by reducing the tumour size, patients could potentially have it then surgically removed. These microspheres, which are used in an interventional radiology procedure known as selective internal radiation (SIRT) or radioembolisation, were administered into the hepatic artery via a catheter inserted into the femoral artery through an incision in the groin.

The media briefing that was held in Singapore to announce the promising news. There were several doctors from Singapore and a representative from Sirtex Medical.

The SIRFLOX study, which is the largest oncology study done by a medical device company, has more than 500 patients from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Middle East and US. This good news couldn’t come at a better time with the growing number of cancer cases in Singapore. According to the Singapore Cancer Registry 2009-2013, colorectal or bowel cancer is the number one cancer among men and the number 2 cancer among women in Singapore.

Associate Professor Peter Gibbs, co-principal investigator of the SIRFLOX study and consultant medical oncologist from the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Australia, presented the SIRFLOX findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago in May this year. “This finding matters a great deal,” he explained, “because the liver is almost invariably the organ where colorectal cancer spreads to first. While half of the patients initially diagnosed with colorectal cancer survive thanks to the surgical removal of the primary tumour before the disease has spread elsewhere in the body, liver metastases eventually cause the death of the majority of remaining hundreds of thousands of patients each year whose tumours spread and are inoperable.”

The SIRFLOX study is one of three randomised Phase 3 clinical studies. The other studies include FOXFIRE, a UK clinical trial and the FOXFIRE Global, an international study. Together with SIRFLOX, the studies have more than 1,100 patients with metastatic colorectal cancer and all the results are expected to be released by 2017. If these results continue to be promising, other cancers could be considered using this treatment.

 


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