Why is this Research so important? Pancreatic cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in North America. Surgery is the only hope for cure. Unfortunately, most patients with pancreatic cancer are not candidates for surgery. Their disease is unresectable. This research involves testing a new and promising treatment for unresectable pancreatic cancer: irreversible electroporation (IRE). With IRE, a large electrical voltage is delivered to the tumor, which kills tumor cells by punching holes in the tumor cells (without causing collateral damage to normal cells).
What problem will this solve? Some patients who are not candidates for surgery still have localized disease. That is, the disease is still in one discreet area (and not spread to distant sites in the body). Until now, chemotherapy represents the only treatment option for those patients. Chemotherapy is not particularly effective for pancreatic cancer, and it is toxic. IRE represents a new and exciting treatment option.
What impact could it have? Initial studies suggest that IRE is well tolerated and patients who received IRE appear to survive longer that what would be expected with chemotherapy. Funding this research would make IRE available to Albertans.
How would this take the project to the next level? If our experience confirms that IRE is safe and that outcomes are better than chemotherapy, then we can make a case to make IRE more widely available. In addition, if our experience is favourable, then we would evaluate treating other cancer types with IRE.
What is unique about this research? In this project, we are evaluating a new technology that is completely unique in comparison to all other treatments of pancreatic cancer. Not only are we evaluating the clinical outcomes related to IRE; we are also investigating the mechanism of how IRE works, and we are studying whether there is any potential to combine IRE with other treatments that we already have available.
What will happen or not happen if you don’t move forward with this research? At the present time, IRE is unavailable to patients in Alberta. Some individuals have traveled long distances and spent large amounts of money to access IRE. Without funding, it will continue to be unavailable, and patients with unresectable pancreatic cancer will receive the more standard chemotherapy.
Dr. Bathe graduated from the University of Calgary Medical School and went on to do his General Surgery residency at the University of British Columbia. He then did postgraduate Fellowship training at the University of Miami, Florida in Surgical Oncology.
He has recently returned to the University of Calgary and is at the Foothills Medical Centre and the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. His areas of clinical interest have evolved around Surgical Oncology with the special interest in tumors of the liver, pancreas and the upper GI tract. Dr. Bathe currently splits his time between clinical practice and basic science research.
He is developing a model for adoptive immunotherapy for cancer. He has other interests looking at the role of neoadjuvant chemotherapy for resectable liver metastases and the role of enteral nutrition following Whipples procedures.