UOW team shares in Cancer Council NSW funding

Professor Peter Metcalfe.
Professor Peter Metcalfe.

A University of Wollongong researcher has been awarded just over $425,000 to further develop a world-first system that will deliver radiation more safely and effectively to cancer patients.

Professor Peter Metcalfe said his team would use the funds to perfect a radiation dosage system that would work in combination with a MRI-linear accelerator.

This would not only allow specialists to view tumours, and surrounding organs, in real time during treatment – it would enable them to check the radiation dose in real time too.

‘’One of the problems with current therapies is that tumours may move slightly during treatment, as the patient breathes for example,’’ Prof Metcalfe said.

‘’An MRI-linac enables you to follow the tumour during treatment, and now we are developing novel detectors to check the dose distribution on those machines.

‘’This means we can target the tumour better and reduce the radiation field sizes so we’re sparing all the other organs.’’

Prof Metcalfe said the new system would help reduce side effects, and lead to more individualised treatment.

‘’We can monitor biological aspects of the tumour and effectively try and personalise the treatment for the patient, depending on how the tumour is responding,’’ he said.

‘’We’ll be able to deliver radiation more precisely, so potentially we’ll be able to deliver the dose in five doses, instead of 25 to 30.’’

Prof Metcalfe said the technology would be especially beneficial for soft tissue tumours that were difficult to visualise on scans, and therefore hard to treat.

‘’So cancers like lung, breast, oesophagus, pancreas, rectal, cervix, prostate and lymph nodes,” he said.

The three-year study was one of 15 groundbreaking cancer research projects worth nearly $6 million announced by Cancer Council NSW on Wednesday night.

‘’The research conducted by Prof Metcalfe and his team at UOW will help to benefit patients not just in southern NSW, but across NSW and Australia,” southern regional manager Michael Cannon said.

Prof Metcalfe said that he felt a ‘’great responsibility’’ receiving a grant from Cancer Council NSW.

‘’You see people tirelessly raising money at events like Relay for Life,’’ he said. ‘’So it’s vital that we use the funds they raise to get a good result.’’

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