Each of these men lost their wives to pancreatic cancer... (left to right) Danile Goulburn, Frank Cheok, Tony King and Mark Bethwaite.
Each of these men lost their wives to pancreatic cancer... (left to right) Danile Goulburn, Frank Cheok, Tony King and Mark Bethwaite. Gail Forrer

Widowers in heartfelt call for help to fight deadly disease

FOUR widowers, Mark Bethwaite AM, Tony King, Dr Frank Cheok OAM and Daniel Goulburn OAM, each lost their wives to pancreatic cancer.

The gentlemen, who were friends prior to their cancer journey, forged a deep bond under the most dire of circumstances and feature in a moving video eager to share their stories and assist in raising awareness about an innovative new trial.

Their individual and collective stories are indicative of all pancreatic cancer journeys, which are shrouded in confusion and lack of awareness.

And with very little time from diagnosis to death, families and loved ones are left traumatised.

Pancreatic cancer remains very difficult to detect and with one of the lowest survival rates. The poor prognosis has remained almost unchanged for over 30 years, with a current five-year survival rate of 9.8 per cent.

That is, only one in 10 diagnosed will survive the disease. Medical predictions currently are that by 2030 pancreatic cancer will be the second-highest cause of cancer mortality.

The month of November is dedicated to bringing pancreatic cancer into focus through awareness and keeping hope alive for those living with or touched by this disease, says widower Daniel Goulburn.

"The pancreatic cancer community needs to shout from the rooftops to make sure people know that in fact it is a cancer that is deadly, a cancer that needs more research, it's a cancer that needs more clinical trials and with research we would get a significant increase in survival rates."

To know more or to make a donation, please visit ImpactPancreaticCancer.com.au

New trial offers hope

The GI Cancer Institute is preparing to introduce two innovative new clinical trials, offering hope for improved survival outcomes in pancreatic cancer patients and is calling out for urgent funding of $600,000 to get the new Neo-IMPACT trial for 20 patients off the ground.

Neo-IMPACT, scheduled for 2020, will for the first time trial immunotherapy before surgery in the early stages of the disease. Recent results were published showing that aggressive chemotherapy with three drugs (FOLFIRINOX) prevents pancreatic cancer coming back after surgery.

In this trial, researchers will apply this chemotherapy regime to people with early-stage pancreas cancer, as well as two doses of immunotherapy before surgery. Researchers at the GI Cancer Institute want to try what has been shown to be effective with lung cancer: giving immunotherapy before surgery in the early stages of the disease.

Spearheading the trial is Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Director, GI Cancer Institute and Head of Oncology at Wollongong Hospital, who is passionate about increasing awareness, survival rates and improving outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer.

"This new trial provides hope - so desperately sought after by the patients I treat and their families," Dr Chantrill said.

"I have promised my patients and people like Mark, Tony, Danny and Frank, who have all experienced the impact of this deadly and aggressive disease, that we will never give up until we find a better way to treat pancreatic cancer.

"Their story is indicative of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in that lives are so often cut short quickly. Even more traumatic is that three of the women taken by this disease were close friends - a situation compounding their tragic loss."

Recognising the need for research in to new and improved treatment options, the GI Cancer Institute not only plans to launch Neo-IMPACT in 2020, it has also begun recruiting patients in recent weeks for a new MASTERPLAN pancreatic cancer trial and is looking to initiate an additional pancreatic cancer sub-study, RANDOMS, in 2020.

The MASTERPLAN trial, funded by the Medical Research Future Fund, aims to find out if chemotherapy combined with focussed high dose radiotherapy before surgery will increase likelihood of shrinking the tumour by killing the pancreatic cancer.

This type of (stereotactic) radiotherapy is not the standard treatment for pancreatic cancer in Australia, however is commonly used in other parts of the world. Focused, high-dose radiotherapy is being used in this trial because it directs a higher dose of radiation to the tumour and less radiation to the normal tissue around the tumour.

This trial will treat people who need to shrink their tumour prior to potential surgery and those who have tumours that are too big to be removed - which accounts for around one third of all pancreatic cancer patients.

Widower Tony King said: "We need to know more about pancreatic cancer. Funding of research is absolutely essential. To get the sort of funding required, you need greater awareness."

You can be a part of this extraordinary research effort to change the outcomes for those with pancreatic cancer.

To know more and make a donation please visit ImpactPancreaticCancer.com.au

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FACTBOX

The GI Cancer Institute is the only organisation in Australia conducting research into new treatments for all digestive cancers - this includes pancreatic cancer. Research conducted by the GI Cancer Institute enables patients to access new treatments 3-5 years faster than if it took place overseas.

The institute needs community support and is calling on all Australians to help those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer to benefit from new treatment options.

Community support helps get new ideas and concepts proven through pilot trials so the institute can then seek government funding to run larger-scale research. Where there is success then it leads to a change in the standard treatment for all patients - knowing the new option is more effective than the existing treatment methods.

It all starts with an idea - the GI Cancer Institute's network of medical professionals, treating patients every day in hospitals right around the country, are actively involved in developing the new research concepts.

Unlike breast or prostate cancer where 9 in 10 will survive, only 1 in 10 pancreatic cancer patients will survive beyond five years and this is a statistic the institute is committed to changing, but it needs your help.


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