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Clinical trials

Research - clinical trials for pancreatic cancer

Cancer research trials are carried out to try to find new and better treatments for cancer. Trials that are carried out on patients are known as clinical trials.

Clinical trials may be carried out to:

test new treatments, such as new chemotherapy drugs, gene therapy or cancer vaccines
look at new combinations of existing treatments, or change the way they are given, to make them more effective or to reduce side effects
compare the effectiveness of drugs used to control symptoms find out how cancer treatments work
see which treatments are the most cost-effective.

Trials are the only reliable way to find out if a different operation, type of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or other treatment is better than what is already available.

Taking part in a trial

You may be asked to take part in a treatment research trial. There can be many benefits in doing this. Trials help to improve knowledge about cancer and develop new treatments. You will also be carefully monitored during and after the study. Usually, several hospitals around the country take part in these trials. It is important to bear in mind that some treatments that look promising at first are often later found not to be as good as existing treatments, or to have side effects that outweigh the benefits.

You don't have to take part in a trial. If you decide not to take part your decision will be respected and you do not have to give a reason. There will be no change in the way that you are treated by the hospital staff and you will be offered the standard treatment for your situation.

Blood and tumour samples

Many blood samples and bone marrow or tumour biopsies may be taken to help make the right diagnosis. You may be asked for your permission to use some of your samples for research into cancer. If you are taking part in a trial you may also be asked to give other samples which may be frozen and stored for future use, when new research techniques become available. These samples will have your name removed from them so you can't be identified.

The research may be carried out at the hospital where you are treated, or it may be at another hospital. Completing this type of research and interpreting the results can take many years. The samples will, however, be used to increase knowledge about the causes of cancer and its treatment. This research will, hopefully, improve the outlook for future patients.

Current research

If you have advanced pancreatic cancer (stage 3 or 4) you may be asked to take part in a trial called FRAGEM. This trial is comparing giving the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine together with the drug dalteparin (Fragmin®), with gemcitabine given on its own. Dalteparin is a type of drug that helps to thin the blood and prevent blood clots forming (an anti-coagulant). It is being tried as a possible treatment for pancreatic cancer, alongside chemotherapy, because people with pancreatic cancer are at an increased risk of developing a blood clot.

If you can't have surgery to remove your tumour, but it hasn't spread to another part of the body, you may be asked to take part in a trial that is looking at the benefits of giving radiotherapy with a biological therapy called cetuximab (Erbitux®). The trial, called PACER, is looking to see if cetuximab will help to improve treatment with radiotherapy and to see what side effects the combination will cause. Cetuximab is a type of biological therapy called a monoclonal antibody. It works by locking onto receptors on the surface of the cancer cells and interfering with the way that the cells grow and divide.

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