Cyberknife
Reporter: Marguerite McKinnon

Patrick Swayze made a million hearts flutter - playing lead roles in such movie hits as Dirty Dancing and Ghost. Then in January this year...

Patrick Swayze had pancreatic cancer, one of the world's most aggressive cancers that has a 5% survival rate. Patrick reportedly underwent Cyber Knife treatment - the latest radiation surgery to treat cancer.

This is how Cyber knife works.

Around 150 beams of radiation are fired at the tumour from virtually any direction without affecting healthy tissue or structures like the spinal cord. It's quick, painless and effective.

Those who've had the treatment are convinced.

Suzanne Bleich had a brain tumour. "It allowed me to treat my tumour, non invasively, I wouldn't have to go through recovery from brain surgery and possibly all that goes along with that like physical therapy, dealing with hearing loss."

Scott Silver had prostate cancer. "Now it's about 8 or 9 months since my treatment. I have no symptoms."

Danny Davis was diagnosed with stage 4 Melanoma which spread to his lung. "When I climbed off that table after the third cyber knife treatment, I was in charge of the cancer. The cancer wasn't in charge of me. And that's how it's been for two years and it's a good feeling."

With stories like these, it's not surprising Australian patients want the same access.

Doctors told Leah Chapman she had no chance after breast cancer spread to her liver and brain. Then she and husband Ashley Mackinnon found the Cyber Knife treatment on the internet.

"It was just by fluke and the people we spoke with were just fantastic. They laughed at us and they said, "How come you have to come all the way to America for treatment? We've been given no hope. They said, "That shouldn't be!"

The biggest hurdle was the cost.

"Well over $100,000. Yeah."

They put it all on credit card - but the results were incredible.

"To walk it was like an 80 year-old woman so that was amazing that it happened so quickly that after the cyber knife she got out the treatment she could walk around a big city and go sightseeing straight away. It wasn't like weeks later it was a noticeable difference straight away."

Leah returned to Australia healthier and happier, but died suddenly five months later from liver failure - a complication of chemotherapy.

"She would have been dead probably five years prior to when she did if we didn't have that treatment, so she got to see her son grow up a little bit and her daughter become a young teenager and that sort of thing. Yeah, it would have been great if it was available earlier and then who knows what the outcome could have been" says Ashley.

Ashley is now fighting 2 battles: paying off the bills with his bed and breakfast retreat in Northern New South Wales and convincing the Australian Government to buy this technology.

"There's an Assessment Committee that we have to go through and they want me to chase that up! I'm a single parent struggling and they want me to chase up getting this Cyber Knife assessed which takes about two years" says Ashely.

Australia's current gold standard treatment is the Linear Accelerator.

The Cyber Knife is 100 times more potent and treats patients 7 times faster.

It's available in the USA, Europe and Asia but not here.

Head of Radiation at St Vincent's Hospital, Oncologist, Dr Raj Jagavkar says while more study is needed, Cyber Knife could help many patients including the one-in-four who can't tolerate anaesthetic or long-term treatments.

"It's in essence a complementary therapy to patients that may not otherwise be eligible for standard treatment approaches; be it external beam treatments, be it brachiotherapy treatments or otherwise" says Dr Raj Jagavkar.

"40,000 people die in Australia every year of cancer and this won't change all of that but if it's ten percent of that, isn't it worth the minor expense that one of these machines would cost?" adds Ashley.

For More Information:

Dr Raj Jagavkar

Head of Radiation at St Vincent's Hospital, Oncologist

Contact: St Vincent's Hospital Sydney

Tel: (02) 8382 111

Ashley Mackinnon - is a chef. Wife Leah died form liver failure following ongoing chemotherapy. Her recent treatment using CYBER KNIFE technology in Oaklahoma USA was a success.

Ashley is now trying to pressure the Federal Government to buy CYBER KNIFE machines for use in Australia.

RUNS "LEAHBELLES" Bed and Breakfast.

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Wilsons Creek via Byron Bay

PH: 02 6619 1699

PH: 02 668 40384

email: leahbelles2482@hotmail.com

web: http://www.leahbelles.com.au