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Pioneering new treatment machine only available at Clatterbridge

Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology is now home to the world’s first ‘Papillon’ radiotherapy machine used to treat early stage rectal cancer.

The arrival of the state-of-the-art Papillon machine has made a significant impact on saving the lives of cancer patients, not just from the Merseyside region but from all over the country. The Papillon machine was designed by the Centre’s Dr Sun Myint and Professor Jean-Pierre Gerard from Nice. Dr Myint studied the technique of treating rectal cancer in Lyon, France, where the method was first developed by Professor Jean Papillon back in 1950.

The groundbreaking machine is the first of its kind, and is designed to treat early stage rectal cancer. It enables specialists to apply high dose, low energy radiation directly to the tumour eliminating the need for major surgery. The UK-built machine has proven most effective when there is no evidence of lymph node spread.

Since October 2009, Dr Myint has treated 27 patients using the pioneering equipment, with around 80-90 per cent of cancers being treated successfully with the technique, depending on the stage of the tumour.

There are over 10,000 patients diagnosed with rectal cancer every year. The majority of patients are over the age of 70, although there are small numbers of people diagnosed aged 40 and under – particularly those with a family history of cancer.

Plans are in place for Dr Myint and the team at Clatterbridge to get at least five other centres in the UK trained to use the Papillon machine, so that patients outside Merseyside don’t have to travel long distances for treatment. Later this year, cancer specialists from Sweden and Singapore will also travel to the Centre to be trained in the Papillon technique.

The National Cancer Screening Programme has now been running in the UK for two years, aiming to detect cancers at the earliest stages. Dr Myint urges Merseyside residents to take this chance to get screened and have the opportunity to have any symptoms treated as soon as possible. The five-year survival rate for early stage rectal cancer is over 90 per cent – whereas in comparison, the rate for late stage survival is only around 30 per cent.

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