Dr. Yaacov Richard Lawrence, a London-born and educated doctor, is part of a unique team of Radiation Oncology specialists at Sheba Medical Center In Ramat Gan, Israel conducting the world’s first clinical trial and study of targeted radiation treatments into the “celiac plexis”(main abdominal artery), to relieve excruciating pain and prolong the lives of critically ill pancreatic cancer patients.
“It’s well known that pancreatic cancer patients just don’t respond at all to morphine, so we have developed a different form of palliative care, which can provide relief from pain, as well as the physical and mental stress associated with this type of disease, which is usually terminal,” revealed Dr. Lawrence, who is also a respected Assistant Professor at Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as a distinguished member of the Royal College of Physicians of London and American Association for Cancer Research.
“We are delivering an unmet need for these critical ill patients and we believe that after we have finished our trial/study along with other participating hospitals in the UK and USA, and publish the results, we are reasonably sure this will be the standard procedure for pancreatic cancer care all over the globe.”
According to Dr. Lawrence, some patients have described how they have been able to greatly reduce, or even stop taking their pain killers. Another patient described how the pain had decreased to the point where she was able to return to her favorite activity-ballroom dancing!
How does it work?
“We deliver a very high dose of radiation into the nerve. We have been doing this clinical trial and research for the past 2.5 years,” Dr. Lawrence divulged.
“80% of the patients who were given this unique treatment showed a significant decrease in pain and 30% of the patients within the 80% were actually pain free. As a result, these patients were more active and mobile, which allowed them to live longer and be treated with stronger medications. It’s not a cure, but its giving them strength and hope to deal with the disease and allows doctors to fight this horrible disease in the best way they know how at this point.”
Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. 91% of pancreatic cancer patients will die within five years of diagnosis – only 8% will survive more than five years. 74% of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.
The pilot study, whose results will be presented in Chicago in June, was supported by the Israel Cancer Association. As a result of these promising results, a larger international clinical trial is underway and is actively recruiting new patients across North America, Europe and Israel.
Dr. Lawrence, who made Aliyah from the UK to Israel in 1997 and joined Sheba’s Oncology Division in 2007, works in tandem with two South African born and medically trained professionals, Dr. Tzvi Simon, Head of the Department of Radiotherapy and Dr. Talia Golan, who runs The Sheba Pancreatic Cancer Center and is the Medical Director of the Sheba Phase I clinical trial unit, which has garnered a stellar international reputation. Dr. David Hausner, who currently resides in Toronto, Canada but will return to Israel in the near future played a vital role in creating the study.
“Though 50% of pancreatic cancer patients are dying in just a few months, we are making significant strides. If we can expand the number of patients who are surviving based on scientific clinical trials and studies, I believe we will eventually find a therapy that will subdue this dreaded disease,” added Dr. Golan.
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