this device can heal the rectum without surgery


  • Three five-minute sessions, combined with external radiotherapy, are sufficient.
  • The risk of relapse is 10%.
  • Rectal cancer affects more than 40,000 people each year in France.

This is a leap in the evolution of cancer treatment. A device, the Papillon 50, can treat rectal cancer without patients having to undergo surgery. Used at the Antoine-Lacassagne center in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), it was presented and recognized at the congress of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. “This recognition is like when you send a rocket to the moon and it reaches orbit, it’s the same feeling”rejoices Jean-Pierre Gérard, radiotherapist at the center for the fight against cancer in Nice, in an interview with 20 minutes.

An important alternative for patients

Also called contact therapy or brachytherapy, treatment with Papillon 50 is a potentially life-changing alternative for rectal cancer patients. Until now, the management of their disease was generally based on abdominal surgery, accompanied by chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, but often it involved wearing a colostomy bag to collect the stool.

The technique was invented in the 1940s by Professor Papillon, based in Lyon. Jean-Pierre Gérard was one of his assistants. “The method fell into oblivion in the 1990s and it is an expensive device. Philipps, which was in charge of manufacturing, stopped in the 2000s”he tells 20 minutes. In 2004, he launched a first study to relaunch the device, then a second study, of international scope in 2014, called Opera, for Organ Preservation in Early Rectal Adenocarcinoma. The results were published on June 2, 2022, following the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting. The treatment “classic“, by chemotherapy and external radiotherapy, was 60% effective, treatment with the Papillon 50 eliminated the tumor in 90% of patients. Despite these encouraging results, the machine is limited to a specific type of tumor: that which are less than 5 cm in diameter.

An application for other tumours?

For Pr Gérard, however, the technique offers hope. “This machine could also be effective for eyelids, mouth, vagina and all over the body on the surface, he affirms to our colleagues from 20 minutes. More than 10% of all cancers in France could benefit from this technique.” For now, only three devices of this kind exist in France.

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