Like many people who were exposed to asbestos, it took more than 20 years before former Ontario Hydro mechanic Man Hong Chan knew anything was wrong.
When he started feeling short of breath during his weekly soccer matches, Chan went to the doctor and his worst fears were confirmed: he had mesothelioma, one of the most aggressive forms of lung cancer.
“It was scathing news. I was really scared,” he said. “Most people don’t even last two years.”
But thanks to a new therapy pioneered by a pair of Toronto doctors, 74-year-old Chan has been cancer free for more than four years.
The technique used by Dr. John Cho and Dr. Marc de Perrot at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has doubled survival times in patients with mesothelioma, according to research they published last month. Their success has drawn attention from around the world and they say doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota will soon attempt to use their method.
Cho, a radiation oncologist, and de Perrot, a thoracic surgeon, paired up to turn conventional treatment on its head, giving patients radiation before surgery instead of after it. They’ve dubbed the technique SMART, for Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy, and Cho says three-year survival rates have more than doubled, from 32 per cent to 72 per cent.
And because the study only started five years ago, survival rates could be pushed further in the years to come. Read more