Soon cancer patients will receive radiotherapy in a more comfortable position as part of a new Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre project funded through Cancer Council Victoria’s research grants program.

Researchers are designing and manufacturing a state-of-the-art radiotherapy chair to better target cancer cells and provide much-needed comfort for patients.

Radiotherapy is presently delivered with patients lying down on a flat hard carbon-fibre treatment couch. The innovative project is setting out to transform the treatment experience for cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.

Associate Professor Nicholas Hardcastle, who is leading the research project for the next two years, said: “Many radiotherapy patients cannot tolerate lying down, including those with head, neck, or lung cancers, as they can have problems with swallowing, breathing or might suffer from chronic musculoskeletal conditions.

“If a patient is in an upright position, it is not only more comfortable, but it alters the patient anatomy.

“This chair may reduce collateral radiation dose to radiation-sensitive organs that can lead to painful side-effects, such as damage to the lungs and a higher risk of cardiac events.”

A/Prof Hardcastle said half of all cancer patients can benefit from radiation therapy during their cancer treatment.

“Radiation is a very common and beneficial form of treatment for many cancers, in particular, for patients with head, neck, or lung cancers,” A/Prof Nicholas Hardcastle added.

“Treating these patients in an upright position will not only improve a patient’s comfort but will allow them to receive life-saving treatment on an ongoing basis,” A/Prof Hardcastle added.

A/Prof Hardcastle also believes that this chair, once completed, will allow for the development of a first-of-its-kind mobile radiation treatment truck, which could reach thousands of cancer patients living in regional or remote areas.

“Treating patients who are lying down requires expensive technology and needs ample physical space. As a result, radiotherapy is typically only offered in large metropolitan hospitals, leading to inequity in access to treatment.

“Developing smaller equipment, like this chair, could be made mobile and improve access to radiotherapy in regional and remote areas. It has the potential to be a game-changer for thousands of regional cancer patients across the country,” A/Prof Hardcastle added.

A/Prof Hardcastle hopes the chair will be ready to be used in clinical trials by the end of the year.

This work is one of 15 cancer research projects awarded $3.9 million in grants from Cancer Council Victoria in February.

Associate Professor Tom John, Professor Mark Dawson, Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson, Professor Ricky Johnstone and Professor Joseph Trapani were also awarded funding through the Cancer Council Victoria's Grants-in-Aid program.

Cancer Council Victoria has awarded more than $60 million in grants over the last decade and CEO Todd Harper is proud to support Victoria’s leading cancer researchers in their research goals.

“As the largest non-government funder of cancer research in Victoria, we have been awarding fellowships and grants to the very best and brightest cancer researchers for more than 60 years. We are thrilled to be awarding 15 more grants to similarly highly-regarded researchers today,” Mr Harper added.

Cancer Council Victoria supports cancer research projects that are at varying stages of development.

“These projects have the potential to be not only game-changing, but lifesaving, in their impact on people with cancer,” Mr Harper continued.

“Our grants are entirely donor funded and highlight just how important our supporters – the generous Victorian public – are in helping us work towards the next cancer breakthrough.

“The time is now to continue funding our incredible researchers as we work toward a cancer-free future,” Mr Harper added.