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VCU Massey Cancer Center First in the Nation With New Treatment For Pancreatic Cancer

civa sheet

The VCU Massey Cancer Center has become the first in the world to successfully implant a bio-absorbable implanted radiation device to treat the early stages of pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer kills four out of five people diagnosed with the disease.

Seventy-year old Willy Grubbs was on vacation in Florida when he first had symptoms,“and my back and sides got to hurting.”

It got worst until he went to the emergency room, which led to a cat scan and an MRI and a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Grubbs said, “And they didn’t want me to leave Florida, but I wanted to come back to where I knew I could get good physicians.”

We talked with him at his home in Varina, where he is recovering from the first-ever operation in the world involving a bio-absorbable implanted radiation device in an area that Dr. Emma Fields says, is full of complications, It's in a very high real estate area of the body where there is a lot of blood vessels there, and also a big nerve system that runs through the same place so inevitably even a small tumor can cause a lot of local problems “ Hard to reach and hard to treat with radioactive seeds, which have been helpful in other areas of the body, so typically when we plant radioactive seeds it is a part of the body that is accessible so you hear about prostate seed implants because we can enter the prostate really close to the skin, or in the breast or for GYN cancers because there is a natural cavity, but the pancreas is a very difficult place to get to.”

And, those radioactive seeds can damage adjacent tissue. But VCU Massey Cancer Center has become the first in the nation to begin clinical trials with a radioactive device that contains that radiation to just the area they want to treat. Dr. Fields says, “That’s right, so that’s what’s different about the device, it gives unidirectional radiation.” It is called a Civa Sheet a flat, flexible membrane from a company with which they have a long and trusted relationship, and Willy Grubbs is the first person in the world to have the implant, “I’m just going to say lucky I guess."

“He’s doing great doing really well.” The Civa Sheet is FDA approved for clinical trials, with hopes the Civa Sheet could help not only pancreatic cancer but also others in complicated areas.

Dr. Fields says, “Yeah, that’s right, it is actually FDA approved for sort of general use, so the indications could be sarcomas, patients with pelvic recurrences after prior radiation. Potentially GYN malignancies, skin cancers, I think the opportunities are endless. “

For Willy Grubbs, it is an opportunity to live longer and help others, ”so with it being an opportunity to try something new and maybe help myself and somebody else too, I thought it was a great idea that they suggested it.” “I mean for having pancreas cancer, his chances are the best they can be and Willy says, “I feel really good I feel like every day I’m getting stronger hopefully before too much longer I will be back to almost as good as I was before I had surgery.”