In an international clinical trial, researchers are comparing standard radiation treatment with a newer type of radiation that uses heavy ions. Facilities in Japan, Italy, and the United States are partnering in this trial, with the heavy ion radiotherapy given in Japan, at no cost to the patient.
Explaining the Different Types of Radiotherapy
Standard radiation treatment, or photon beam radiation, uses x-rays or gamma rays, which go through the body to the tumor. However, this treatment can damage tissue around the tumor. Carbon ion radiation uses heavier carbon ions to deliver the radiation to the tumor. These ions cause more damage to the tumor, and less damage to surrounding tissue. Heavier carbon ions also leave more energy in the tumor than standard radiation treatments, increasing the damage to the tumor.
Two Protocols for Treatment
The trial is divided into two groups. One group will receive carbon ion radiotherapy plus standard treatment with gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel; the other group will get traditional photon beam radiotherapy plus the chemotherapy combination. Gemcitabine is converted into two metabolites that cause cell death. One reduces the number of building blocks necessary to make DNA; the other shortens the DNA strands. Nab-paclitaxel inhibits cell division and promotes cell death. Researchers are looking for which treatment is better at halting the disease and extending the life of patients.
To participate in this trial patients must have pancreatic tumors that cannot be removed by surgery, but have not spread to organs that are far from the pancreas.
Participants will be randomly assigned to either group. Those outside of Japan who are part of the carbon ion radiotherapy group will be flown with a caregiver to a treatment center in Japan. All costs—food, housing, transportation, insurance, and the treatments—will be paid by the trial.
We encourage you to consult your physicians for clinical trials that may be right for you. The website ClinicalTrials.gov provides more details about this trial as well as many others. You can visit the EmergingMed Trial Finder for a listing of all active pancreatic cancer clinical trials.