Matthew Foote: Alumnus Behind Australian Gamma-Knife Centre

THIS IS AN EXCERPT FROM THE 2015-2016 ANNUAL REPORT.

Within the UTDRO community, one often hears of how the research efforts of faculty members are having a positive impact in low and middle income countries. But it is rare that UTDRO is recognized for influencing new treatment modalities in high income countries like Australia.

Dr. Matthew Foote is a Radiation Oncologist at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Queensland, Australia and was a clinical and research fellow at UTDRO from 2009 to 2010. He is credited with launching the first publicly-funded Gamma Knife program in Australia. “UTDRO had a role to play in launching this program,” he noted. “A supporting letter from UTDRO Professor Normand Laperriere describing the benefits of Gamma Knife was instrumental in my application for support.”

During his fellowship at UTDRO, Matthew focused on CNS, paediatrics and stereotactic radiotherapy for brain and spine tumours. This is when he was first exposed to Gamma Knife and stereotactic body radiotherapy. “This exposure shaped my thinking about the possibilities of radiosurgery and how underutilized it was in Australia,” he said. Knowing that Gamma Knife and stereotactic radiotherapy were in infancy in Australia, Matthew continued on the academic path to bring these treatments to Australia.

At the Princess Alexandra Hospital, Matthew is also the Director of the Gamma Knife Centre of Queensland and focuses on neuro-oncology, head and neck cancers, melanoma and stereotactic body and brain radiotherapy. In his first year as a radiation oncologist, he had already secured funding to establish a Linac-based intracranial radiosurgery program and a stereotactic spine program at the hospital. The following year, he established one of Australia’s only comprehensive stereotactic body and brain programs.

Until this point, Matthew had been successful in increasing treatment options for people in Queensland, but this was not enough. “I wanted to provide a same-day intracranial radiosurgery service for people throughout the state of Queensland,” he said. After six months of lobbying government and hospital funders, Matthew successfully secured support and over $4 million capital investment to establish Australia’s first state-wide publicly funded Gamma Knife service.

As the Director of the newly established Gamma Knife Centre of Queensland, Matthew oversaw the procurement of the Gamma Knife equipment, the development of the Gamma Knife Suite and implementation of the clinical program. In the first year, the centre treated over 240 patients and is on track to treat 350 patients in the second year. Matthew is very pleased with this outcome. “The Gamma Knife program complements our existing and expanding stereotactic body and hypofractionated intracranial program exceptionally well.”

Matthew hopes to expand the program clinically and bring in more research opportunities. “We are examining novel ways in which we can generate funds to ensure adequate funding of the research portfolio,” he elaborated. “We have developed links with our scientists and the medical imaging department with a research focus on brain metastases and immune modulation. Also, with our engaged neurosurgical colleagues, we are planning to expand our vascular and functional radiosurgery caseloads.”

Matthew notes that he is grateful for his time at UTDRO where he learned the skills and gained the confidence and knowledge to lead this program. “I honestly feel an immense degree of gratitude towards UTDRO for everything it has done to enable me to contribute to patients and families in Australia,” he added. “For 25 years, UTDRO has been providing the foundations for leaders in Radiation Medicine throughout the world and that is worthy of celebration.”

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