Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is a leading specialist cancer hospital. Its radiation therapy cancer research programme helps patients to access cutting edge treatments that deliver the best possible outcomes.

Two pivotal studies from the Radiation Oncology Group have assessed factors affecting radiotherapy access and utilisation given the data demonstrating that radiation therapy usage in Australia is below recommended evidence-based benchmarks. Two-thirds of health providers (medical, radiation and surgical oncologists, physicians (including palliative care), and general practitioners with an interest in oncology) perceived acute side effects of radiotherapy, their management and impact on daily commitments, as well as fear and anxiety about radiotherapy, to exert moderate to significant influence on radiotherapy decisions. Treatment-related travel, need for accommodation and relocation were also perceived by 64% of Health providers to do the same. Over half of health providers rated concern regarding late effects of radiotherapy, disruption to family and work life, and the ability to organise family and work commitments around radiotherapy, as moderate to significant influences on radiotherapy uptake. A second study demonstrated that improving the affordability of radiotherapy through publicly funded transport and radiotherapy at out of area facilities did not improve breast-conserving therapy uptake in a region where radiotherapy was locally available, albeit at cost to the user. Improving both affordability and convenience through the provision of local publicly funded radiotherapy increased breast-conserving therapy uptake. Service availability and affordability have long been recognised as important determinants of radiotherapy access. Our findings suggest that inconvenience may also influence radiotherapy utilisation.

There have been several improvements in how radiation treatment is prescribed which are related to research between clinicians and physicists. There is a clear link between irregular breathing and errors in medical imaging and radiation treatment. The audiovisual biofeedback system is an advanced form of respiratory guidance that has previously demonstrated to facilitate regular patient breathing. The clinical benefits of audiovisual biofeedback will be investigated in an upcoming multi-institutional, randomised, and stratified clinical trial recruiting a total of 75 lung cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy including patients treated at Lifehouse. Another study addressed the issue of temporary tissue expanders with metallic ports for gradual saline injection, which are increasingly being employed to facilitate breast reconstruction after post-mastectomy radiotherapy. These metallic ports may in theory decrease the radiation dose. This study demonstrated that there was no clinically significant change in the radiation dose in these patients.

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