A British woman has become the first in the world to be treated with a revolutionary new therapy which injects a high dose of chemotherapy into cancer cells.
Karen Childs, from north-west London, is taking part in a clinical trial for acoustic cluster therapy to treat cancer that has spread to her liver.
During the therapy, clusters of microdroplets and microbubbles are injected into the patient at the same time as chemotherapy, where they work to enhance its delivery. Ultrasound scans are used to ensure the clusters “pump” the drug into the tumour, meaning substantially more chemotherapy reaches cancer cells.
Experts hope the technique will mean patients have fewer doses of chemotherapy in the future, reducing the risk of side-effects.
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The new treatment is being trialled by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
Ms Childs, who was diagnosed with cancer in November 2013, said: “I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet that I’m the very first patient in the world to be receiving this new treatment. This trial is an exciting step for the hospital and a huge step for patients like me.
“It really would make a big difference to patients’ lives if side-effects could be reduced in the future using more targeted treatments like this. It’s an incredible opportunity to be on this trial and the staff at the Royal Marsden have been amazing and very supportive.”
The aim of the clinical trial, which is still in its early stages, is to provide data on the effectiveness of the treatment as well as to establish its safety. The therapy is being used to treat patients with tumours in the liver that have spread from the bowel or pancreas.
Eventually, the technique could be used to reduce the size of tumours before surgery – making them removable and potentially offering more patients a cure.
The clinical trial is largely funded by Phoenix Solutions, which developed the technique, and the Research Council of Norway.
Jeffrey Bamber, professor in physics applied to medicine, who led the work to develop and evaluate the technology at the ICR, said: “We’re delighted that our work on innovative acoustic cluster therapy – which is designed to overcome barriers to drug delivery that tumours develop – has progressed to the point where the technology is now being assessed in patients for the first time.
“It’s a very exciting ‘door-opening’ technology which concentrates more of the drug in the tumour. We expect eventually to be able to both treat tumours more effectively and reduce the rate and severity of side effects.
“In the long term, we hope this technology will be of particular benefit in difficult-to-treat tumours, such as those of the pancreas. It may also assist new types of treatments such as immunotherapy.”
Professor Udai Banerji, deputy director of drug development at the ICR and Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re hopeful we can help open up a much-needed new option for patients with hard-to-treat advanced cancer.
“This trial is a real cross-team effort involving radiologists, physicists and nurses who all work together to provide the treatment and support the patient throughout the process.”