At Chris O`Brien Lifehouse Cancer Hospital and RPA Hospital in Sydney, which work together as specialist NSW sarcoma cancer centres, researchers have opened a trial injecting patients with a new agent that is activated by radiation therapy, in an effort to shrink the tumour before surgery. The agent is a nanoparticle called Hafnium which can be turned on and off by radiation, and is being used on cancer for the first time in Australia.
Chris O`Brien Lifehouse Cancer Hospital radiation oncologist Clinical Professor Angela Hong says: “Early phase clinical trials carried out overseas showed very promising results.
“If successful, this could make surgery possible for some patients, or could make surgery more useful, by killing tumour cells on the edge of the tumour. This means that nanoparticles may increase the chance of curing the disease and preventing the tumour from coming back.
“If this works, the technique could be applied to other cancers. We estimate the trial, if successful, will translate into changed practice for sarcoma tumours within five years.”
“Radiation therapy is the treatment that, combined with surgical removal of the soft tissue sarcoma, has proven very effective. It is given before surgery in order to make the tumours smaller and treat edges of larger tumours, which could be deep-rooted and have the ability to spread to other healthy tissue.
RPA sarcoma surgeon Dr Paul Stalley said: “Surgically removing the tumour is the main treatment for soft tissue sarcoma of the limbs and the trunk wall. This removal of the tumour is necessary for the best treatment of the disease.
“Innovative treatments are needed to improve the chances of getting a clear surgical margin and thus better control of the tumour. This should result in fewer recurrences of tumour.”
Prof. David Thomas, board member of the Australian Sarcoma Study Group, said: “Trials like this one give hope to both sarcoma patients and specialists.
“Historically, this disease has been neglected because of its rarity. But sarcoma incidence is on the rise – there are about 800 new sarcoma cases in Australia each year, an increase of 40% over the previous decade. Mortality is among the worst for any cancer type in adolescent and young adult patients.”