For people with advanced oesophageal cancer, one of the first side effects is dysphagia: difficulty or pain in swallowing. Our PALEO trial, which uses a combination of radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, is addressing this.
Study Chairs Prof Jarad Martin and Dr Fiona Day were motivated by how the loss of the ability to eat without pain made oesophageal cancer even harder on patients.
“When we’re in the clinic, we can very clearly see the colossal burden of cancer on our patients – physical and mental. It’s apparent to us that our patients are working through the most difficult time of their lives,” says Prof Martin.
“And when the cancer makes it painful for patients to even eat, it feels cruel.”
When Tracey (not her real name) started having pain when eating, feeling full and finding it hard to swallow, it was discovered that she had tumours in her oesophagus. She was referred to the PALEO trial by her oncologist.
“If the PALEO trial wasn’t available, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” Tracey says.
“Eating is a vital activity even during the best of times. It’s so important for the immune system. But to not be able to share a meal with your loved ones when you’re going through something like cancer, that’s devastating,” says Prof Martin.
All 18 PALEO patients have seen their dysphagia improve. Tracey is now able to eat and drink almost anything – and excitingly, it has extended her life.
“It means a great deal to me, my team and my patients to know that you have this incredible confidence in the work we’re doing,” Prof Martin says.
“Thank you. We are immensely grateful for the trust shown in us by the community and will work tirelessly to improve outcomes for people with oesophageal cancer.”