Doctor's breakthrough cancer treatment saves countless lives

Some cancers are so malignant that despite surgery, up to a third of people won't survive.

But one Sydney surgeon has spent his career developing techniques to bring that figure down to one per cent.

Professor Michael Solomon is literally leading the world when it comes to some of the most complex cancer surgeries.

These difficult surgeries aren't even attempted in other countries because they're considered just too difficult.

Professor Solomon has been steadily improving the outcomes for his patients, by just keeping them alive.

Mariana Baric was 47 with four children, when she was diagnosed in 2000 with aggressive cancer in her pelvis. Her prognosis wasn't good.

“I was told basically that there wasn't much they could do for me,” she said.

Then she was referred to Professor Michael Solomon at RPA Hospital.

“My husband asked him 'is it because you think you can help, or is this a challenge for you?' And he said 'good question, a bit of both. yeah',” Mariana told 7News.

Dr Andrew Rochford asked: “Why is it so complex, this surgery?”

Dr Solomon: “I guess the pelvis is a little bit like an LA freeway, as I explain to patients you've got all these blood vessels, lymphatics, all coming in from the whole half of the body, and then you wrap that in a bony igloo which gives us very difficult access.”

Tumors in the pelvis are difficult to completely remove because the organs are so densely packed and entwined.

Hitting a blood vessel can cause death quickly.

“Historically when I trained everyone just said 'you just can't do that, it's impossible' and that's been very rewarding to challenge what's been said you can't do,” Dr Solomon says.

Professor Solomon's radical approach is incredibly invasive, and highly aggressive.

He continues: “The main reason it wasn't offered was because it wasn't safe, so I thought that was a surgical thing we could address.”

In serious cases, he removes all the lower internal organs during marathon nine hour surgeries. And it works.

Professor Solomon performs about 60 of these amazing procedures a year.

During this one, leading surgeons from Singapore, Malaysia and the UK assisted, to learn his method.

“It's really quality of life, survival, and life really,” he says.

Life, for hundreds of patients like Mariana, who 14 years later is cancer free.

“So many good things have come out of what I went through, that I wouldn't care if went through it again. To have the experience that I've had, it was amazing,” Mariana said.

Mariana and her grandchildren.
Mariana and her grandchildren.

For patients with this type of cancer, surviving five years is considered a cure. Previously only 10% made it.

Now, because of Professor Solomon's surgery, 50% live five years or more which is an incredible result.

TOMORROW in the Healthy Truth: meet the boy whose heart stopped in a pool, and how breakthrough research saved him, and his Mum. '