Trial of Radioactive Glass Particles to Tackle Cancer

Cancer treatment with radioactive glass microspheres is to be trialled for the first time in the UK at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust is seeking volunteer patients as part of the global EPOCH clinical trial of selective internal radiotherapy for bowel cancer that has spread to the liver and has become resistant to chemotherapy.

The EPOCH trial will investigate the use of tiny glass microspheres in patients with liver metastasis from colorectal cancer whose cancer has progressed after first line drug therapy. At least 20 patients will take part in the Oxford trial, to start this month.

The glass microspheres are 20-30 micrometres in diameter, about a third of the width of a human hair and contain the radioactive isotope, yttrium-90.

Using a thin flexible catheter inserted via the groin, the microspheres are delivered directly into tumours in the liver through the tumour’s own blood vessels. The microspheres become permanently lodged in the tumour’s small blood vessels.

Because the procedure delivers the treatment directly to the liver tumours, the radiotherapy destroys tumour cells with minimal impact to the surrounding healthy liver tissue.

The radioactive microspheres continue to deliver radiotherapy for weeks after the treatment.

The clinical trial will compare the new radiotherapy treatment combined with standard drug therapy (chemotherapy) to standard drug therapy alone.

Patients eligible to participate in the clinical trial have metastatic bowel cancer (also called “colorectal cancer”) with spread to the liver, when the cancer has progressed despite chemotherapy.

Professor Ricky Sharma, Honorary Consultant in Clinical Oncology at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and CRUK Oxford Centre Member, said: “We are delighted that patients in Oxford will have the chance to participate in this clinical trial.

“It offers a new radiotherapy treatment option to patients with colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver when chemotherapy has not worked.

“In Oxford, we have considerable experience of this new, minimally invasive approach to treating cancer.

“We are very excited to be the first centre in the UK to offer this clinical trial to patients who meet the eligibility criteria.

“Within the past month, two patients have volunteered to participate and they have both been enrolled.”

Common side effects of this therapy include mild to moderate fatigue, the possibility of some pain immediately after the procedure and the possibility of mild nausea.

Doctors sometimes describe these symptoms as similar to those of mild flu. Some patients experience some loss of appetite and temporary changes in several blood tests. This therapy is already approved in the European Union for the treatment of certain types of liver cancer.

The sponsoring partner for this clinical trial is Biocompatibles UK Ltd, a BTG group company.

For further information about this clinical trial or how to participate in this clinical trial, please contact Professor Ricky Sharma, Consultant in Clinical Oncology, Churchill Hospital, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, OX3 7LJ, telephone number 01865 235209.

Ester Hammond Recieves 2015 Michael Fry Research Award

CRUK Oxford Centre is pleased to announce that Dr Ester Hammond is the recipient of the 2015 Michael Fry Research Award from the Radiation Research Society (RRS).  

The Michael Fry Research Award was formerly known as the Radiation Research Award. It was established to recognise junior scientists who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of radiation research.

Previous recipients can be seen  online here.

Ester will receive the award at the RRS 61st Annual Meeting in September. The annual meeting provides researchers in all areas of radiation research the opportunity to discuss new and important findings, while enriching the multidisciplinary objectives of the RRS.


£5 Million Stratified Medicine Programme Launched to Personalise Care For Bowel Cancer Patients

Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council  jointly launched a Stratified Medicine Consortium to help personalise bowel cancer treatment by matching patients to the most effective therapies, today. 

The £5M Stratification in COloRecTal cancer or S-CORT Consortium is made up of the following partners: University of Oxford; Queen’s University Belfast; University of Birmingham; University of Leeds; Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute; MRC Clinical Trials Unit; Kings College London; University of Aberdeen; University College London; Almac; Astra Zeneca; Glaxo Smith Kline; Beating Bowel Cancer; Northern Ireland Cancer Research Consumers Forum; European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer; Cardiff University; Ku Leuven; European Alliance for Personalised Medicine; The University of Manchester; European Cancer Organisation. The funding for S-CORT is split evenly between Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council.

S-CORT will use the latest genome-based technology to uncover the complex biology of bowel cancer in samples collected from over 2,000 patients from large clinical trials. Researchers will use this information to precisely match the right treatment to the right patient. This approach will help better predict how different patients respond to treatment, allowing the most effective therapies to be delivered to newly-diagnosed bowel cancer patients.

These insights should help doctors decide which patients receive the chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin, what type of radiotherapy they’re offered, and may also help surgeons to remove as little of the bowel as possible.

More than 41,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK and treatment varies based on the type and size of the tumour, whether the disease has started to spread (metastasise), and on the health and fitness of each patient. This programme of research will identify and use new ways to predict the patient’s response to treatment based on the genetic make-up of their tumour, as well as helping doctors decide how to treat patients more effectively.

Professor Tim Maughan, Cancer Research UK Clinician at the University of Oxford and head of the S-CORT Consortium, said: “Bowel cancer survival has more than doubled in the last 40 years. But there’s still a lot more work to do. Recognising this challenge, we have brought together key partners from the UK and Europe in this consortium. Based on strong evidence from our previous work and generating new data from over 2000 individuals, we’ll identify ways to tailor treatment and ensure patients receive the drugs and other therapies that will benefit them the most, and make a significant difference to their chances of beating this common disease.”

Professor Mark Lawler, Chair of Translational Cancer Genomics, Queen’s University Belfast, said: “This precision medicine approach can maximise the effectiveness of both existing and brand new treatments while helping to minimise side effects, to improve survival and quality of life for our patients. Additionally, our health economic analysis will allow us to measure the benefit we can deliver for the NHS and the UK economy.”

Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, a partner in the consortium, said: “We’re delighted to be involved in this innovative research programme, as it provides a route to improved care for our patients.”

The announcement is made during Bowel Cancer Awareness month (April) and represents a significant commitment from Cancer Research UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC) in developing more personalised medicine for cancer patients.

Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “We’ve a huge amount of new information coming through about the molecular changes that take place in bowel cancers, and we now need to understand how to match patients to the most effective treatments.

“Programmes like S-CORT will take the information we get from our clinical trials to a new level. We’ve made great strides in developing new treatments for bowel cancer, and around six in 10 patients now survive for more than 10 years, but we know there is more we can do.

“This programme will help establish a blueprint for new studies looking to tailor treatment for patients with other cancer types. It builds on existing work such as a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer which launched last year.”




John Findlay wins Royal Society of Medicine Glaxo Travelling Fellowship

The CRUK Oxford Centre is delighted to announce that The Royal Society of Medicine recently awarded Centre member, John Findlay, its 2014 Glaxo Travelling Fellowship. John is a General Surgery Registrar in the Oxford Deanery, and a Senior Clinical Research Fellow in OesophagoGastric Surgery at the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. His research interests focus on personalising therapy for patients with oesophageal and gastric cancer, on the basis of molecular, clinical and radiological biomarkers.

The 2014 Glaxo Travelling Fellowship was awarded for his paper ‘Novel classifications of oesophageal cancer FDG-avid nodal stage and metabolic response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy, and predicting progression to metastatic and unresectable disease’. This paper also won the 2014 Royal Society of Medicine Sylvia Lawler Clinical Poster Prize, and 2014 Association of Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons of Greater Britain Poster Prize.

This study of 383 patients with oesophageal cancer treated in Oxford at the Churchill Hospital aimed to determine the utility of restaging oesophageal cancer after neoadjuvant chemotherapy with positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT), and was undertaken as part of John’s PhD. PET-CT was shown for the first time to be twice as sensitive as CT for detecting interval metastases after neoadjuvant chemotherapy for oesophageal cancer, with decision theory supporting routine re-staging PET-CT for all patients. In addition, new classifications of FDG-avid nodal stage and metabolic response to chemotherapy and predictive models were developed, which could identify patients at high risk of interval progression to metastatic or unresectable disease before surgery, and also those with a worse prognosis afterwards.

After his success with this paper John is now exploring whether PET-CT may have a similar predictive role in gastric and other gastrointestinal cancers. He commented that he was honoured to receive this prize on behalf of his collaborators, and hopes very much that these findings will have immediate use in counselling patients with oesophageal cancer, and also in identifying those patients who will benefit from additional staging and re-staging investigations.