The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is working on its first research study in another country, with the opening of a clinical trial in hospitals across France.
The pioneering initiative is in immunotherapy, a ground-breaking area of cancer research that is designed to help a patient’s own immune system fight the disease.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust is helping to lead the way in immunotherapy research, being the first centre in the UK to offer the Transgene form of the treatment in a clinical trial for head and neck cancers earlier this year.
This new research is into liver cancer and it is the first time a Clatterbridge clinical trial has been taken abroad.
Clatterbridge patients have been part of this research since 2020 but, after successfully collaborating with hospitals in France, around 10 centres there will also conduct the clinical trial, which will give a larger pool of participants for the study.
The research – called TACE 3 – is for people with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer, and adds the immunotherapy drug nivolumab to transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), an existing standard treatment.
The collaboration with French research teams has been in preparation since 2018, but was delayed due to COVID-19. The teams are planning to sign up the first of 100 French participants soon.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre is now hoping to open other clinical trials abroad and the centre has already been in discussions with cancer centres in Germany.
Clatterbridge Consultant Medical Oncologist Prof Dan Palmer, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Liverpool, is leading the clinical trial. He said, “Immunotherapy helps your immune system to find and kill cancer cells by activating certain white blood cells into doing this. It is cutting- edge research with the potential to prolong survival for patients with liver cancer, as well as increasing our understanding of how to activate the immune system more effectively to inform future research.
“This particular study, with the involvement of pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, the Liverpool Clinical Trials Centre and French cancer network Unicancer, is finding out if nivolumab immunotherapy can improve a standard treatment for this cancer.”
David Price, Clatterbridge’s Research Governance and Quality Manager, said, “In opening our first trailblazing international clinical trial, we have gained truly unique expertise which will hopefully increase Clatterbridge’s future portfolio of trials.
“It will also help Clatterbridge to gain international recognition in becoming a centre of excellence for cancer research, which can only be of benefit to our patients. “We have learned a lot of valuable lessons through this process and have forged some key collaborations along the way from all involved parties.”
Dr Maria Maguire, Clatterbridge’s Head of Research Governance and Sponsorship, said, “We are incredibly excited to open our first clinical research trial in another country. An international study gives a far greater pool of prospective participants, making the findings more robust.
“A great deal of hard work was involved in organising this partnership in France but we now have the expertise to extend our clinical research trials to other parts of Europe.”
Image: Prof. Dan Palmer, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool.