Proton therapy unit to slash cost for treatment at second SAHMRI

26 Aug 2015
Proton therapy unit to slash cost for treatment at second SAHMRI

SAHMRI 2 would house the $80 million machine, cutting treatment costs, saving lives and eliminating side effects of conventional radiotherapy. 

The machine would deliver cancer destroying protons precisely to the tumour site without affecting healthy tissues. 

It would treat up to 1000 people a year including hundreds with no other options apart from going overseas due to the tumour being deep in the brain or spinal cord. 

At present the Federal Government subsidises about two dozen people a year — mainly children — for overseas treatment, usually in the United States, taking about six weeks at a cost of around $250,000. 

Dozens of others pay their own way as a last resort, typically parents who mortgage their homes for their children’s treatment, according to doctors. 

As the only such machine in the southern hemisphere the proton therapy unit would attract patients from around the region. 

It is the centrepiece of a South Australian Government business plan put to the Federal Government for SAHMRI 2, to be located behind the existing SAHMRI on the fast-developing Health and Biomedical Research Precinct on North Terrace. 

Premier Jay Weatherill has put the case to the Federal Government and while no formal response has been received he said all indications are favourable. 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told The Advertiser when he opened SAHMRI in November 2013 he was well disposed to the second research facility. 

Mr Weatherill said he would seek a ‘substantial’ contribution from the Federal Government — who paid $200 million for the existing SAHMRI headquarters — as well as industry partners and his own government. 

“I have written to the Prime Minister asking for his support for a national centre for proton therapy and research, based here at our biomedical precinct and collocated with the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and future Women’s and Children’s Hospital,” he said. 

“I have been encouraged by the Prime Minister’s receptiveness to this proposal which will also create highly skilled jobs for generations of South Australians.” 

SAHMRI executive director Professor Steve Wesselingh said Adelaide is the perfect place for the proton therapy unit, given its central geography and now with the southern hemisphere’s largest health and biomedical precinct. 

“Co-locating the proton therapy unit at our emerging state of the art research, teaching and clinical care precinct in collaboration with Flinders University would position South Australia as a national leader in this field,” he said. 

Dean of the School of Medicine at Flinders University Professor Paul Worley said it would enable treatment of otherwise inoperable tumours. 

“Dozens now go overseas for it and pay for it themselves — they are mainly wealthy or people who mortgage their homes, but a lot of other people simply have no such choice.” 

Director of Radiation Oncology at the Royal Adelaide Hospital Associate Professor Michael Penniment said it would allow treatment on tumours close to crucial body structures such as the spine. 

“What I normally do is deliver radiation that potentially cures cancer but has side effects, proton therapy is a way of stopping the radiation before it hits normal tissues — it is fantastic for children having radiotherapy,” he said. 

Read the article on AdelaideNow.