This year marks the 30th anniversary of the GI Cancer Institute and AGITG. This year, we are looking back at the highlights from our past clinical trials which have led to breakthroughs in medical knowledge and better treatments for patients. We could not make these breakthroughs without the incredible dedication and support of our researchers, community supporters, and most of all, our patients and their families.
Biliary tract cancer is a rare cancer that affects the bile tract. The bile tract is made up of tubes that transport the bile produced by the liver into the small intestine. When food is being digested, bile stored in the gall bladder is released and passed through the bile ducts into the small intestine.
TACTIC was a clinical trial for patients with advanced biliary tract cancer, led by Professor David Goldstein and Doctor Jenny Shannon. Their research started from the knowledge that for patients being treated with chemotherapy, adding an antibody treatment, panitumumab, appeared to increase the numbers of cancers shrinking. They also knew that for some types of cancer, improvement was related to a gene type called ‘KRAS wild-type’.
At the beginning of the TACTIC trial, 78 patients with advanced biliary tract cancer had their tumours tested for the KRAS wild-type gene. 48 of them had this gene type, so were eligible to enrol in the trial. These patients were treated for 12 weeks with chemotherapy and panitumumab. After the 12 weeks had passed, 80% of the tumours had not grown during the treatment. As a result, the investigators considered that the treatment acts against this type of tumour and is worthy of ongoing investigation.
Patients on this trial on average had 8 months when their disease improved or did not get worse. Patients with advanced biliary tract cancer generally have a poor prognosis, and so this result was notable. TACTIC enabled the investigators to see that selecting patients and treating them according to specific gene types could provide even more significant improvements in outcomes for patients in the future.
Our work continues
To continue improving treatments for people with gallbladder and biliary tract cancers, we are currently conducting the ACTICCA-1 trial in Cholangiocarcinoma. This trial is investigating treating patients with chemotherapy after surgery. It will help researchers to know if this treatment prevents cancer from returning after it has been removed. The ACTICCA-1 trial has given hope to patients like Mark. Read Mark’s story