Trials to prevent unnecessary chemo for cancer

Trials to prevent unnecessary chemo for cancer

Illuminate newsletter index page, December 2018
December 2018


(L-R) Associate Professor Jeanne Tie and Associate Professor
Sumi Ananda are leading trials of a blood test to guide cancer
treatment after surgery.

A new blood test in clinical trials led by Institute researchers could spare cancer patients from chemotherapy and its side-effects.

Taking place at more than 40 hospitals in Australia and New Zealand, the trials are investigating whether a blood test could help to determine whether a patient needs chemotherapy after surgery.

Currently many early stage cancer patients who have surgical treatment receive follow-up chemotherapy as a precaution.

In many cases, patients are receiving unnecessary chemotherapy, said trial lead Associate Professor Jeanne Tie.

“While it is an essential, life-saving treatment, we don’t want patients receiving chemotherapy if they don’t need it. We want to help these patients avoid the serious and ongoing side-effects,” she said.

A reliable indication for treatment

The trials are testing whether the ‘circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) test’, developed through a collaboration between the Institute and Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre in the US, can reliably indicate to an oncologist whether or not a patient needs to start chemotherapy after surgery.

The ovarian cancer arm of the trial is led by Associate Professor Sumi Ananda.

“We suspect that many women with early stage ovarian cancer can be treated with surgery alone, but we currently treat all these patients as though their cancer may recur.

“I hope that by identifying patients with the highest risk of recurrence, we can give them intensive chemotherapy and the best chance of survival. This test could be an important step towards personalising cancer treatment,” Associate Professor Ananda said.

Recruitment underway

More than 400 patients have already joined in the trials of the ctDNA test (DYNAMIC), but the lead researchers hope to recruit 2000 participants. The trials are expected to run until 2021 for bowel cancer and 2019 for ovarian cancer.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Western Health are partners in the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre alliance.

 

More information is available by emailing ctDNA@wehi.edu.au or calling 03 9345 2896.

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