Radiation therapists and doctors Standing with a radiography machine.

Medical Physics Specialist Anthony Karl, Radiation Therapist Faisal Alshamrani, Radiation Therapist Dean Panada, Radiation Therapist Amie Ross, Medical Officer Dr Michael Hsieh and Radiation Therapist Cassandra Clark are ready to deliver the new prostate cancer treatment.

New prostate cancer treatment treating first patients

Jun 10, 2024

A radiotherapy treatment program previously only available in some major Australian cities is helping prostate cancer patients in Coffs Harbour and will soon be used for patients in Port Macquarie.

The Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR) technique delivers a high dose of radiotherapy in each treatment with extreme precision, meaning far fewer treatments for patients and less impact on surrounding healthy organs.

Coffs Harbour’s Shearwater Lodge provided a $150,000 grant to the Mid North Coast Cancer Institute (MNCCI) to fund a radiotherapy project officer, who will help train staff in SABR, ensuring the advanced technique becomes a regular treatment option for the local community.

Project lead, Amie Ross, said setting up SABR outside a metropolitan centre involved consulting with public and private radiation oncology centres, nationally and internationally, to work through delivering the technique in a smaller setting using the existing equipment available at MNCCI.

“Many of our patients require daily treatments so our focus in delivering this technique was on patient safety and reducing the treatment time and number of visits required,” Ms Ross said.

“The SABR technique reduces the number of radiation treatments required for prostate cancer from between 20 and 45 to as few as five.”

“In the short-term, delivering SABR will have massive benefits for patients, and long-term it should have a big impact on our service because we will have greater capacity to treat other high-risk patients.

“It was very much a team achievement to get to this point. By working with people from various departments, every step of the patient journey was considered in setting up SABR on the Mid North Coast.”

“While the program will be of huge benefit to our patients, the treatment isn’t suitable for everyone,” Ms Ross said.

“There is an eligibility criterion based on individual patient factors which the radiation oncologist will carefully consider. As the program becomes more established, we aim to expand to cover more of our prostate cancer patients.”

Shearwater Lodge was established as a Rotary Club of Coffs Harbour initiative to provide low-cost accommodation to Coffs Harbour Health Campus patients and their loved ones. It opened in 2005 with funding support from the Woolgoolga Lions Club and the community.

Income generated from Shearwater Lodge supports local cancer research and medical activities focused on cancer treatment.

Lodge chairman Dr Paul Moran said it was exciting to see the project progressing to the point of treating first patients.

“We’re very happy it has progressed this far,” Dr Moran said. “Being able to access this specialised treatment means better care for people closer to home.”

The first patients began treatment in Coffs Harbour in April and Port Macquarie is scheduled for July.

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