Clinical trial aims to see how personalised treatment can fight cancer

Cancer Research UK, AstraZeneca and Pfizer to work together on trial for lung cancer

Cancer Research UK has joined forces with AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients who have advanced lung cancer.

Scientists from Cancer Research UK will use the genetics of each lung tumour to identify small groups of patients who are more likely to benefit from a certain drug because of the specific genetic changes causing their cancer.

Researchers will be given access to up to 14 medicines – up to 12 from AstraZeneca and its biologics research arm MedImmune, and two from Pfizer – which target very specific and often rare mutations, meaning they could offer hope for patients who would otherwise have very limited treatment options.

During the 'National Lung Matrix' trial, the researchers will look for signs of improvement, such as increased survival, tumour shrinkage or an alleviation of symptoms. Medicines that show promise in the small groups of patients may be fast-tracked into larger trials. And new medicines can be added to the existing trial as new experimental treatments filter through from the lab.

Funding for the trial, from Cancer Research UK, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, with support from the NHS, represents about £25m worth of research.

This partnership is exciting because we’re trying to achieve something that none of us could manage alone

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s Chief Executive, said the trial is an important step forward in the fight against cancer.

'This partnership is exciting because we’re trying to achieve something that none of us could manage alone – targeting treatments towards the patients who we know are the most likely to benefit,' he said.

'We know that every patient’s cancer is unique, so we’re now moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach and instead striving for more personalised treatment. Critically, we are shifting the emphasis from designing a trial around a specific drug, to designing it around selecting from a range of drugs for a specific patient. This trial will be for lung cancer patients but we hope that in the future stratified medicine will lead to dramatic improvements for all cancer patients, with more treatment options and a better chance of beating the disease,' he said.

The trial will be led by Professor Gary Middleton with the Early Drug Development Team at the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit in Birmingham.

'This is one of the largest ever personalised medicine trials in any cancer, one which attempts to match the right treatment to the right patient based on an in-depth understanding of what makes their own cancer cells grow and survive,' he said.

This is one of the largest ever personalised medicine trials in any cancer

It will build on the first phase of Cancer Research UK’s Stratified Medicine Programme, which established a way for NHS hospitals to routinely test tumour samples and use this information to help match cancer patients to the most appropriate treatment.

Menelas Pangalos, Executive Vice President, Innovative Medicines and Early Development at AstraZeneca said: 'At AstraZeneca we believe that targeted therapies which address the underlying mechanisms of disease are the future of personalised healthcare. It’s an approach that will allow us to push the boundaries of science and, not only to bring the right treatment to the right patient, but also to uncover new treatments for those who currently have limited options.'

Mace Rothenberg, Senior Vice President, Clinical Development and Medical Affairs, and Chief Medical Officer, Pfizer Oncology, added: 'As our understanding of cancer biology has evolved, we have learned that targeting the genetic abnormalities within a cancer can lead to meaningful improvements in care for that disease. We believe the innovative design of the National Lung Matrix trial may hold significant potential for patients with advanced lung cancer.'