Developing better cancer trials for non-small cell lung cancers

CTRad LogoDespite the development of new drug treatments, there are a lack of radiotherapy and drug combination trials for non-small cell lung cancers. Due to the challenging symptoms of the disease, many lung cancers are diagnosed at quite a late stage where treatment options are very limited. There are no established drug-radiotherapy combination studies in the field of curative treatment for stage III or IV non-small cell lung cancer, this presented an opportunity to develop better treatments for patients.

Dr Gerry Hanna, a member of NCRI’s radiotherapy research working group, CTRad, and co-Chief Investigator of the CONCORDE trial mentioned below, said “Lung cancer unfortunately has very poor outcomes, for patients at present. We’re seeking to radically improve that.”

To address the shortage of high-quality studies in this area, NCRI brought together experts from a range of different disciplines, including industry, with the aim to create a plan for working towards better clinical trials in non-small cell lung cancer.

The meeting led to the formation of a consortium to focus on this challenge, including researchers from a range of disciplines and research centres interested in developing high-quality trials in this area. There is an editorial about this in the Clinical Oncology journal.

The Consortium is currently developing two uniquely designed multidisciplinary trials – a phase one trial that will focus on the addition of new drugs to radical radiotherapy doses in stage III non-small cell lung cancer (“CONCORDE”), and a phase two trial in stage IV of the disease that will explore the immunomodulating effects of stereotactic radiation in combination with immunotherapy (“SPITFIRE”) – with a view to using their expertise to develop more trials if these are successful.

To make the trials the best they can be, NCRI is supporting the Consortium to form and meet as trial development groups. There’s usually no support available at this stage, to facilitate collaboration, with studies only gaining formal support once funded – but this small amount of support at the right stage will greatly improve and speed up the development of trials.

Additionally, this collaborative approach to developing clinical trials will greatly speed up the development of the trials; getting trials up and running is a priority if we’re to tackle the lack of research in this area. Having a multi-centre, collaborative team also supports the use of innovative trial designs drawing on varied expertise – something that would not usually be possible in trials developed in a traditional way by a single research centre.

Because it’s already working in related areas with the best researchers from a range of related disciplines from across the UK, NCRI’s CTRad is in a unique position to be able to bring researchers together and support them to form a consortium like this. This is further supported by specific expertise from other NCRI activities such as the Clinical Studies Groups.

Dr Fiona McDonald, co-Chief Investigator of the SPITFIRE trial, said, “CTRad provides leadership and mentorship to help get new radiotherapy trial ideas off the ground, help get them funded and into the clinic to bring benefit across the board to patients”.

By simply supporting researchers in the right way, with the right conversations and support at the right time, we have supported the development of better trials that will get under way faster. We’re breaking down the barriers to high quality research and enabling it to happen faster.