Clinical trial offers innovative form of radiotherapy for people with pancreatic cancer

The first Australian clinical trial to use stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) and modern chemotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer has enrolled its first patient.

Pancreatic cancer accounts for the death of more than 3,000 Australians annually, with only one in nine people living longer than five years. The five year survival rate is only 9.8% – in comparison to the five year survival rates for breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma, which are all over 90%.

“There is a desperate need for improved treatment for patients with pancreatic cancer,” says Dr Andrew Oar, the Study Chair. “We hope that this study investigating the combination of cutting edge radiotherapy with highly active chemotherapy will significantly improve patient outcomes in this devastating disease.”

The MASTERPLAN clinical trial is treating people with high-risk or locally advanced pancreatic cancer, using a new form of radiotherapy that delivers highly targeted doses of radiation to kill tumour cells with precision, while minimising damage to surrounding cells.

MASTERPLAN received a $1.5 million grant from the Australian Department of Health in 2018. This was as part of an investment in rare cancer research under the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

This phase II study aims to recruit 120 participants across 10 sites in Australia. Additional funding is needed to support an extra 5 sites. The study will be conducted by the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG).

This method of multimodal approach to treatment has the potential to impact more than a third of pancreatic cancer patients. Focussed radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer is common in other countries around the world, but in Australia it is not currently standard care. As such it offers much needed hope to patients as pancreatic cancer is a complex disease to diagnose and treat; it is frequently not detected until it as at an advanced stage, at which point it often cannot be cured. If the results of this trial are successful, this treatment could be one of the breakthroughs needed for this deadly disease.

This trial was developed in collaboration with the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG) and the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre at the University of Sydney.

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