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Australian first tech to have John’s treatment done by Christmas

Published:  20 December 2019

A precision drone strike of radiation on a tiny six-millimetre cancerous lesion will mark the first treatment of a patient by a revolutionary new machine in Australia.
Clinicians at The Townsville Hospital will tomorrow treat the first patient in the southern hemisphere using the new $10 million Elekta MR linear accelerator.

John Koch, 67, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014 which has spread to three small lesions in his lower abdomen. The lesions are within centimetres of the bowel, which is extremely susceptible to radiation treatment.

Minister for Communities and Minister for Disability Services and Seniors and Member for Mundingburra Coralee O’Rourke said that this was a huge step forward for North Queenslanders with cancer.

“Having been through cancer I know first-hand how important it is we do everything we can to make that battle easier for people,” Minister O’Rourke said.

“More than ever before our doctors will be able to better target complex cancers more accurately which means fewer treatments and less side effects.

“This is the best cancer machine in the world and the only one in the southern hemisphere is right here in the best city in the world.

Townsville Cancer Centre radiation oncologist Dr Alex Tan said the new machine meant doctors could target radiation more accurately, tailor treatment daily and deliver higher doses.

“The inbuilt imaging in this new equipment means we can be more precise in our delivery of high doses of radiation to small targets in the body,” he said.

“By having more confidence, we are hitting the cancer and not surrounding healthy tissue, we can be more aggressive in our treatment.

“The plan with John is to start his treatment tomorrow and he’ll be finished treatment in time for Christmas.”

John, a retired auto worker, has lived in Townsville for 15 years who has been managing his prostate cancer through the Townsville Cancer Centre for the past five years.

“For anything that ever happens there is always a first time and now I just want to get in to it,” he laughed.

“I’ve been pretty pragmatic about my cancer, I live with it but I’m lucky enough to have Alex here to help me manage it.

“I was really happy to be the first patient because I know the more people who use this machine the better the team here will be able to look after people.”

Townsville Hospital and Health Board Chair Tony Mooney said he was delighted that the complex undertaking of procuring, installing and operating the Elekta MR had been delivered on time and on budget.

“This has been a major and complex undertaking and puts us as a regional cancer centre in the rare and enviable position as now being a national leader in cancer care,” he said.

“As of tomorrow, we will be offering a service that is provided nowhere else in Australia and nowhere else in the southern hemisphere.

“Today is a monumental day for health in North Queensland and one that should be celebrated by our community.”

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