Study to help doctors predict cancer progress

01 December 2012

QEHB researchers are carrying out a study which could improve doctors’ ability to predict outcome and survival in patients with cancer of the oesophagus (gullet) and gastrooesophageal junction (GOJ; junction of oesophagus and upper stomach).

The number of new cases of oesophageal and GOJ cancer is rapidly increasing every year in the UK, and is often fatal.

The standard of care for patients with oesophageal and GOJ cancer is cytotoxic chemotherapy, with or without radiotherapy, followed by surgery.

To date knowledge of the molecular pathogenesis of the disease has not been used to determine outcome or to stratify treatment.

A nationwide study called OCCAMS, led by Dr Rebecca Fitzgerald, at the Hutchison/ MRC Research Centre, Cambridge, is recruiting patients with oesophageal and GOJ cancer, and Barrett’s oesophagus with high grade dysplasia (precancerous change) at 12 hospitals across England and Scotland.

The trial is due to run until October 2016.

OCCAMS is looking at two approaches to improve our understanding of oesophageal and GOJ cancer.

One approach is to test a new system to ‘stage’ the cancer, which is a way of categorising the cancer based on location and extent that the cancer may have spread.

The second approach seeks to improve doctors’ understanding of the complex molecular mechanisms of the disease, and how they can be used to predict outcome and to plan treatment.

The current recruitment for all centres in the UK is 450 patients, of which QEHB has recruited 110 patients.

QEHB is the second highest recruiting centre for OCCAMS in the UK.

Olga Tucker, Consultant Upper GI surgeon, is the QEHB’s Principal Investigator for OCCAMS.

She said: “Our recruitment at QEHB has been fantastic so far, with 110 patients recruited to the study to date.

Patients approached for the trial are generally very enthusiastic.

The OCCAMS consortium aims to bring together clinicians and scientists from around the UK who share the common goal of collecting patient samples and information to improve outcomes for patients with oesophageal cancer.

“It is a very important study which will move our treatment of this form of cancer forward.

Our patients have been very positive about the study, which is reflected in the excellent recruitment we have had here at QEHB.

”Patients in the study consent to the collection of information about their condition, and blood and tissue samples taken at the time of their routine tests and treatment.

These samples will be used to learn more about the causes of oesophageal and GOJ cancer, and may help to develop new treatments for the disease in the future.

Patients taking part in the study are not required to undergo any tests or treatments which are not part of their standard care.

The trial is led at the QEHB by Olga Tucker, and run by Eileen Grimes, Clinical Trials Co-ordinator, Janet Morse, Clinical Research Technician, and Sonia Puig, Locum Consultant Upper GI Surgeon.