Breakthrough in liver cancer treatment

Bill Milton and wife Jackie
Bill Milton and wife Jackie

THE first patient in Sheffield to receive a revolutionary new treatment for liver cancer is going into the new year with a new outlook.

Bill Milton, aged 71, of Deepcar, is “feeling great” and is more optimistic since receiving the experimental procedure at the Northern General Hospital after being told that other treatments his doctors had tried were not working.

The retired builder has now been told that the treatment has shown promising results and the tumours in his liver have shrunk.

Bill spoke this week of his gratitude to the team that cared for him as he underwent Selective Internal Radiation Therapy, which involves injecting millions of tiny radioactive ‘beads’ into the liver, effectively delivering a localised form of radiotherapy to the tumour cells.

Although not regarded as a cure, it is considered an effective alternative to chemotherapy in shrinking tumours and improving patients’ prognosis and quality of life.

The grandfather-of-five said: “I can’t express enough how thankful I am to have received this treatment – the whole team of surgeons, doctors and nurses have been absolutely fantastic.

“My cancer started in the bowel, and I underwent an operation to remove the tumour. However, soon after I was told that I had several tumours in my liver.

“As you can imagine, it was a great shock – I’d never even thought for one moment that I’d get cancer in the first place.

“The doctors tried chemotherapy, but no treatment works 100% of the time, so we had to look for other possibilities. I hadn’t heard of anything like the SIRT treatment before – I didn’t know it was possible. But I was willing to try anything!”

Bill is the first patient ever to receive the treatment in Sheffield. The treatment itself involved two procedures, and only one overnight stay in hospital.

Bill added: “I feel great. I know that I still need to have regular check-ups and there’s always the chance the tumours could grow again but I have tried to be positive throughout the whole experience and this treatment has certainly helped me have a more optimistic outlook.”

And it has meant that he has not had to go through any more chemotherapy, with its side-effects.

Dr Trevor Cleveland, of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who treated Bill, said: “It is very promising that we have been able to give Bill the SIRT treatment, and we are pleased that he has shown a positive early response to the treatment.

“Whilst this can be an effective treatment, it is important to emphasise that not all patients are appropriate to receive it and that all patients are assessed on a strictly individual basis.

“It is an experimental treatment at this stage, not a ‘cure’, but one that is certainly showing promise for the future.”

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK with 38,000 people diagnosed each year. About 50% of patients experience spread of the disease to the liver and most patients cannot be cured by surgery.