Pancreatic cancer patients in Southampton are receiving a revolutionary new treatment to boost survival rates.

Nineteen patients have received a full dose of radiotherapy in just a few minutes during their operations using a piece of equipment called Mobetron. It forms part of patients’ treatment at University Hospital Southampton (UHS), which is the only centre in the country using the kit.

It has been described by experts as an “important step” in the battle against the aggressive form of cancer and part of a new “three-pronged assault” against the disease.

Pancreatic cancer is a particularly aggressive form of the disease which is normally diagnosed at a late stage. It has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers, with five-year survival for patients in the UK at less than seven per cent and one per cent beyond 10 years.

Funded by PLANETS Cancer Charity, which fundraises for pancreatic, liver, abdominal and neuroendocrine tumour services, Mobetron is the first portable system in the world able to administer the treatment – known as intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) – mid-surgery.

IORT is an intensive form of targeted radiation given at the time of surgery to treat a wide variety of advanced cancers that are otherwise difficult to remove and treat, such as during pancreatic head cancer surgery, a procedure known as pancreaticoduodenectomy or Whipple procedure.

IORT enables surgeons and oncologists to give doses of radiation to areas that are at a high risk of recurrence of disease without causing damage to surrounding healthy tissue and organs, limiting unnecessary radiation, and reducing complications.

“We have shown that adoption of IORT using Mobetron is just as safe as standard pancreatic cancer surgery and this should be the impetus for others to adopt it,” said Arjun Takhar, a consultant hepatobiliary and pancreatic cancer surgeon at UHS and part of the PLANETS surgical team.

“Although it is currently too early for long-term outcomes, this is an important development for pancreatic cancer patients for whom survival rates are still poor as it demonstrates change is possible and is coming.” Arjun added.