'A new lease on life': Mayor with pancreatic cancer gets unfunded treatment in Germany
Published Wednesday, October 12, 2016 11:02PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 13, 2016 10:11AM EDT
An Ontario mayor who couldn’t get Canadian doctors to perform an experimental treatment on his pancreatic cancer has undergone the procedure in Germany.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of the disease.
About 4,800 Canadians are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, and about 75 per cent of patients die within the first year.
Trent Hills Mayor Hector Macmillan was diagnosed in January, and hoped to undergo a NanoKnife procedure in the U.S. – an operation that would use electrodes to jolt his tumour and kill cancer cells.
In Canada, the procedure is considered experimental due to insufficient research. The Ontario Health Insurance Program denied Macmillan’s request for funding for the U.S. procedure.
With few prospects and time running out, Macmillan flew to a hospital in Germany that offered the NanoKnife procedure.
Speaking to CTV News from his hospital bed, Macmillan said the treatment was a success.
“I've got a new lease on life. And that my future health is back in my hands,” he said through tears from his hospital bed. “Finally the clock has stopped gonging in my head.”
But it’s unclear exactly how much time the procedure may have bought MacMillan. Some studies suggest that the NanoKnife procedure may double survival rates among some patients with the aggressive disease.
Macmillan helped pay for his trip to Germany with money from an online campaign called “Save our Mayor,” which raised more than $42,000 since it was created in August.
There are at least two NanoKnife units in Canada, but their use remains expensive and unfunded.
Canadian doctors are expected to meet later this week to discuss a plan to study NanoKnife technology on pancreatic cancer patients in Canada.
Other patients with pancreatic cancer are calling on the government to take steps to fund NanoKnife procedures at home. Colleen Walters similarly travelled to Germany this year to have the procedure on her own inoperable pancreatic cancer.
Four months later, she says her outlook is bright.
“I’m here. I’m happy,” Walters said.
Walters says she knows someone else in Canada with pancreatic cancer who would benefit from the treatment, and she says it’s time for the procedure to be made available to Canadians.
“Let’s get this ball rolling and start saving some people,” she said.
With files from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip