It is a revolution in medicine and in the fight against cancer. The Antoine-Lacassagne Center in Nice, the Papillon 50 contact therapy device, has just been scientifically recognized at the Asco (Society of Clinical Oncology) congress in Chicago for an effective treatment for rectal cancer.
“I treated my first patient in Lyon, 50 years ago with this method, learned from Dr. Papillon, whose assistant I was, that’s why the device has this name today,” developed Professor Jean-Pierre Gérard. radiotherapist at the Cancer Research Center in Nice, at the initiative of the research. This recognition is like sending a rocket to the moon and reaching orbit, it’s the same feeling. »
90% of patients are cured with Butterfly 50 in addition to external radiation therapy
“This is the first time that small cancers of the rectum can be cured without surgery,” he said. The method had fallen into oblivion in the 1990s and is an expensive device. Philipps, who was in charge of manufacturing, stopped in the 2000s. Then I did my first study in 2004 and then another international Opera [Organ Preservation in Early Rectal Adenocarcinoma] which began in 2014. This randomized trial takes eight years to show its effectiveness. It takes 140 patients, 70 who use the treatment and 70 who do not and then wait three years to make sure it works. »
With 25 patients a year in the center of Nice, he had to be patient. And the results speak for themselves: With conventional external radiation therapy, 60% of those tested were cured, and 90% of those who had the benefits of Papillon 50 contact sessions no longer had tumor.
Only the tumor is irradiated
The machine, of which only three copies exist in France, comes with a tube that is placed inside the rectum. It is effective for tumors that do not exceed 5 cm in diameter and that make it possible, 3 cm or less. The Butterfly 50 sends 20 gray X-rays in two minutes, which is ten times more rays than conventional radiation therapy.
“We control the irradiation, which means that only the tumor is affected and it is absolutely not toxic,” said Prof. Gérard. Only three five-minute sessions are required, then combined with five weeks of external radiation therapy. “In one session, 50% of the tumor is neutralized, in the second it is 80%. In 99% of cases, the treatment goes as planned, without sequelae, without pain and above all without the risk of living with a disability that could have been caused by surgery, ”he adds.
10% of cancers can benefit from this method
And the Naked Butterfly 50 not only deals with rectal cancers. Skin cancers can also be treated this way. “This machine could also be effective for the eyelids, buttocks, vagina and the whole body on the surface. More than 10% of all cancers in France could benefit from this technique, according to the professor, who is developing all over the country. It will then be necessary to give more formats because very few radiotherapists are able to handle this device which requires a difficult gesture. »
Dr. Cyrielle Scouranec was one of those who know, especially because of the transmission du savoir du Pr Gérard. For the past year, she has been practicing this method with patients. “There is a technical side to a challenge because you have to position yourself well to treat the tumor well,” she said. From a medical point of view, it is very interesting and very satisfying to see the tumor respond to this treatment. »
At the Antoine-Lacassagne center, another device, the Papillon +, is this time unique in the world. “It can cure breast cancer in a day, in a minute,” says Jean-Pierre Gérard. It is a revolution because we change the rest of the patients’ lives, they are delighted to be able to heal without surgery. »