It is a revolution in the field of medicine and the fight against cancer. At the Antoine-Lacassagne Center in Nice, the Papillon 50 contact therapy device was scientifically recognized at the Asco (Society of Clinical Oncology) conference in Chicago as an effective treatment for rectal cancer.
“I treated my first patient in Lyon 50 years ago in this way that I learned from Dr. Papillon, whom I was helping, and that is why the device bears this name today, developed by Professor Jean-Pierre Girard, radiotherapist at the Center Against Cancer in Nice, on the initiative of the research. This recognition is like when you send a rocket to the moon and it gets into orbit, it’s the same feeling.”
90% of patients are cured thanks to Papillon 50 plus external radiotherapy
“This is the first time we can treat small rectal cancers without surgery,” he continues. The method fell into oblivion in the 1990s and is an expensive device. Phillips, which took an interest in production, ceased in the 2000s. Then a first study was conducted in 2004, then another international opera [Organ Preservation in Early Rectal Adenocarcinoma] which began in 2014. This randomized trial takes eight years to prove its efficacy. It takes 140 patients, 70 patients using the treatment and 70 patients not using it, and then they wait three years to make sure it’s working. »
With an average of 25 patients per year at the Nice Center, we had to be patient. And the results speak for themselves: With conventional external radiotherapy, 60% of the subjects in the trial were cured, and 90% of those who benefited from Papillon 50 contact therapy sessions no longer had a tumor.
Only the tumor is irradiated
The device, of which there are only three copies in France, comes with a tube that is placed inside the rectum. It is effective for tumors less than 5 cm in diameter and 3 cm in diameter or less if possible. Papillon 50 sends out 20 gray x-rays in two minutes, which is ten times more radiation than conventional radiotherapy.
“We control the irradiation, which means that only the tumor is affected and it is not toxic at all,” Professor Girard outlines. Only three five-minute sessions are required, then combined with five weeks of external beam radiotherapy. In one session, 50% of the tumor was neutralized, and in the second 80%. In 99% of cases, the treatment proceeds as planned, without sequelae, without pain and above all without the risk of living with a disability that may be caused by surgery,” he adds.
10% of cancers can benefit from this method
Papillon 50 does not treat only rectal cancers. Skin cancers can also be treated in this way. This machine can also be effective for eyelids, mouth, vagina and all over the body on the surface. More than 10% of all cancers in France could benefit from this technology, notes the professor, who hopes for development across the country. Further training will then be necessary because very few radiotherapists are able to handle this difficult nodding device. »
Dr. Cyrielle Scouranec is one of those who know, in particular thanks to the transfer of knowledge from Pr Gérard. For a year, she has been practicing this method for patients. “There is a technical aspect that is challenging because you have to be in a good position to treat the tumor well,” she explains. From a medical point of view, it is very interesting and satisfying to see a tumor responding to this treatment. »
At the Antoine-Lacassagne Center there is another device, the Papillon +, unique this time in the world. “Breast cancer can be cured in one day, in one minute,” says Jean-Pierre Girard. It is a revolution because we are changing the rest of patients’ lives, they are happy with their ability to heal without surgery. »
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