Top cancer researcher defends doctor at centre of chemo scandal

A top cancer researcher who was treated by a Sydney doctor at the centre of the widening chemotherapy dosage scandal has come to the haematologist’s defence.

Dr Kiran Phadke, who worked at the St George and Sutherland Hospitals, is under investigation for under-dosing three cancer patients, and the records of another 14 are being reviewed.

But former Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) chief scientist Professor Barry Allen has told the ABC he was treated for multiple myeloma by Dr Phadke and had nothing but praise for him.

“I would have no problem recommending Dr Phadke to anybody else,” Professor Allen said.

“I have every confidence in his judgement and the way he talks to his patients.”

Yesterday, a woman who identified herself as one of the patients called talkback radio, complaining about how she had been informed about the review and saying she had been warned not to “run to the media”.

Dr Phadke issued a statement on Wednesday for the first time since the scandal broke, saying he was sure that when the particular circumstances of each of the patients are taken into account, authorities would see that his treatments were “reasonable and proper”.

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner and South East Area Health Service chief executive Gerry Marr have apologised for the distress and uncertainty the patients and their families are facing.

Dr Phadke worked in ‘best interests of patient’

Professor Allen said Dr Phadke’s patients should not panic because they have been in good hands.

He said his experience was nothing but positive and patients should trust his judgement, even if the dosage they received went outside of accepted standards of treatment.

“We never discussed dosage, so I would assume this was a standard dose, but I would expect that an oncologist would actually work in the best interest of his patient.

“If that happened to be outside protocol, so be it.

“My treatment was very successful. I’m not cured, but I’m in remission.”

He said he was not sure whether the way the patients were notified by NSW Health was ideal, saying it was like a TV show where people only get part of the story.

“Dosage is not black and white. If you’ve got end-stage cancer, the oncologist has to weigh up the distress caused by therapy with the longevity, which may be a month or two extra.

“In my case, I had no side effects and achieved remission in four treatments, and we did discuss having a further session of treatments but it was decided that was not necessary.”

Professor Allen was formerly the research principal hospital scientist at the St George Cancer Centre and the chief scientist at ANSTO for three decades. He was named one of the world’s top-50 medical physicists in 2013.

He said he had known Dr Phadke as a colleague at St George Hospital before being treated by him.