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New clinical trial hopes to shrink tumours for surgery

31 August 2016

A new clinical trial has launched in the UK looking at ways to make pancreatic cancer more responsive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The 2-part trial involves pancreatic cancer patients whose tumour is too big to be removed by surgery but which has not spread to other parts of the body.

The trial is led by Professor Jeff Evans at the University of Glasgow and is funded by Cancer Research UK.

Patients on the trial will be given a drug called olaparib as well as receiving the standard treatment of chemoradiation.

In the first part of the trial, the doctors want to find the safest dose of olaparib to give with chemoradiation. In the second part, the doctors hope the combination will shrink the tumour enough to be removed by surgery.

Professor Evans said: “This is the first time we’re looking at ways to make pancreatic cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy. One way to make pancreatic cancer a more treatable disease is to shrink the tumour enough to make surgery a possibility and we hope to see that happen in this trial.”

Radiotherapy, and some chemotherapy drugs, works by causing damage to DNA in cancer cells. When cancer cells repair this damage, then the tumours become resistant to treatment.

Olaparib stops an enzyme in the body, called PARP-1, from working. Cells rely on PARP-1 to help repair their damaged DNA. So cancer cells are more likely to die when olaparib stops PARP-1 working.

PCRF CEO Maggie Blanks said: “This is really good news. We’re always pleased to hear about new clinical trials that may help patients survive for longer and we hope that the results are positive.”

Professor Evans received PCRF funding for research into pancreatic cancer in 2010. You can hear him talking about his research aims and the importance of funding here.

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