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Groundbreaking therapy to remove tumours in the livers of cancer patients without a surgical operation has been unveiled at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, in a first of its kind for the country.
Medical staff talked about the new technology, known as Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (Sirt), which uses Yttrium 90 to bond radio-active beads and directs them straight to the site of the tumours, to eliminate them.
University of Pretoria and Steve Biko Hospital's head of nuclear medicine, Professor Mike Sathakge, explained that once released into the system the beta radiation targeted the tumours and destroyed the DNA of the cancer, totally destroying or shrinking the tumour. He said this increased the patient's quality of life and increased their life span, adding that they could go on and live for many more years than they otherwise would have without the therapy.
Candidates for the therapy are inoperable cancer patients with bulk tumours situated in other areas. Patients with colorectal cancer were also candidates for the therapy. About 40 percent of the over 5 000 colorectal patients diagnosed in SA every year had cancer tumours spread to their liver and they cannot be removed surgically.
Hospital chief executive Dr Ernest Kenoshi said the cost of the therapy in private health facilities was R120 000 but in the public sector the poorest of the poor received treatment free of charge. He said the placing of this therapy in a public facility would increase its accessibility to the general public. Kenoshi said its location in a university hospital was perfect, where a multi-disciplinary team of doctors would manage it, not for monetary gain or profit but so that it benefited the people.
Three patients have so far benefited from the therapy Sathakge said the patients had responded very well to the therapy and the method would be available at Steve Biko for some time while they consolidated it further and created a centre of excellence.
Kenoshi said finances would be the only hindrance to the effective roll-out of the therapy but the hospital would operate on as many patients as they could. The therapy originated in Australia.
Ntando Makhubu: The Saturday Star, 16 June 2012