New clinical trials set to benefit local cancer patients

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SCHHS Staff Specialist Radiation Oncology Dr Myo Min.

For the first time in Australia, patients with advanced head and neck cancer and rectal cancer will be able to benefit from a new treatment being investigated by the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS) oncology team.

Thanks to a $450,000 research grant awarded to SCHHS Staff Specialist Radiation Oncology Dr Myo Min, the health service will this year launch four innovative radiotherapy studies and be able to employ a dedicated research radiation therapist to help deliver them.

Dr Min said some local cancer patients for whom surgery or chemotherapy was not suitable would benefit most from the treatment their team was investigating.

“We believe that the cancer outcome as well as quality of life for these patients will be improved by our proposed treatments, which are currently not investigated or available in any other Australian cancer centre,” he said.

“We have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) simulator at the Adem Crosby Centre, which allows us to scan patients in the radiotherapy position to better understand their treatment requirements and thereby improve the quality of radiotherapy targeting.

“Our research team will investigate the role of functional MRI in personalised radiotherapy in patients with head and neck cancer, and locally advanced rectal cancer.

“Functional MRI can provide detailed information of cancer behaviour or aggressiveness and help map these areas, allowing clinicians to increase a radiotherapy dose at resistant tumour locations, while minimising doses of radiotherapy to healthy tissue and other important regions of the body.

“The research grant (funded by the SCCHS Study, Education and Research Trust Fund – SERTF – and Wishlist) is incredibly important because it will allow us to onboard a full-time research radiation therapist who will co-ordinate the specialised and complex radiation plans for these clinical trials.

“According to evidence-based guidelines and protocols, clinical trials are one of the best options to maintain and improve the quality of care provided to our patients.

“While we will continue to provide standard radiation therapy treatments to the majority of our patients, those patients who are eligible for our studies will be offered the chance to participate, to improve their cancer outcome and long-term quality of life.

“Such research opportunities ensure cancer patients in the Sunshine Coast and Gympie regions are being offered high quality, evidence-based, personalised cancer care at a tertiary level.

“Our team at SCHHS is leading the way in regards to this novel research field. Our region is experiencing rapid growth and we need to be responsive to the increasing health needs of our growing and aging community.

“Our research group also includes a strong collaboration with the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Thompson Institute,” Dr Min said.

SCHHS Chief Executive Dr Peter Gillies said the health service’s SERTF research grants ultimately resulted in improved health outcomes for the Sunshine Coast community.

“We’re proud to have a clinical and research portfolio at SCHHS that is comparable to other major centres in Australia. These grants support our clinicians financially and practically and inspire a commitment to excellence in healthcare through research and innovation.

“By driving departments to elevate their outcomes we are ensuring our patients receive the best care possible," Dr Gillies said.

Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said the not-for-profit charity strongly believed in fostering the research culture of the local health service.

“We have directed more than $2 million in the past several years to support and develop medical research on the Sunshine Coast and intend to grow our research investment into the future,” Ms Rowe said.