Cancer Research UK has initiated a first-of-its-kind clinical trial to exploring whether pancreatic cancer cells can be made make more responsive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The trial will treat pancreatic cancer patients - in whom tumours have grown too big for surgery but have not yet spread to other parts of the body - with olaparib (marketed for ovarian cancer by AstraZeneca as Lynparza) alongside standard treatment with chemoradiation.
The first stage of the trial aims to seek the safest dose of the PARP-1 inhibitor, while the second part will assess whether the combination can shrink tumours to a size small enough for surgical removal.
"This is the first time we're looking at ways to make pancreatic cancer cells more sensitive to radiotherapy," said Professor Jeff Evans, chief investigator at the University of Glasgow. "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."
"Around 9,400 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK and it remains a very difficult disease to spot at an early stage, making it much harder to treat," noted Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK's chief clinician. "Despite this we are making steady progress through research and trials like this one."
The charity recently said it has tripled investment in pancreatic cancer research - streaming £18 million into the field in the 2015/16 compared to £6 million the prior year - as it strives to tackle rising rates and poor survival.