A world-first study aiming to help cancer patients who either fail to respond, or become resistant to chemotherapy has opened at The Christie hospital in Manchester.

The specialist cancer centre has been selected to lead the pioneering study adding to its reputation in delivering high quality early phase clinical research. It is one of only four sites worldwide and the only site in the UK to offer this first of its kind drug trial to patients.

The groundbreaking study is a Phase 1 trial of an investigational medicine called AZD0156 together with Lynparza™ (olaparib). The combination is being trialled in patients with solid tumours. Both compounds belong to a class of drugs called DNA Damage Response (DDR) inhibitors which increase the amount of genetic damage in a cancer cell so that it dies without affecting normal cells.

Dr Emma Dean, lead investigator on the study at The Christie, explains: “It is exciting that drugs of this calibre are being trialled in the North of England at The Christie.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy is ineffective for some patients as their cancer cells are able to repair, becoming resistant to standard treatment. The new drug is likely to be most effective when paired with standard chemotherapy or radiotherapy as it sensitises cancer cells to the effects these treatment and targets proteins in the body that help a cancer cell repair itself.

Christie patient, Amanda Haddock, 48 from Bradford, West Yorkshire is one of the first patients to trial the innovative drug which she started taking at the end of April.

The wife and mother of three was first diagnosed with cancer in her head and neck in 2014 and underwent surgery and radiotherapy to remove all of the cancer.

Unfortunately Amanda’s cancer returned with further tumours appearing on the side of her face in the summer and September of 2015. Amanda underwent two courses of chemotherapy over the following months however both were ineffective as her cancer was terminal. The only treatment option available to Amanda to prolong her life then was surgery but because of the location of the tumours, there was a risk of disfigurement.

Amanda said: “After my initial treatment in 2014, all the cancer appeared to have been removed. It wasn’t until a scan in 2015, that it was confirmed my cancer had returned and there were more tumours. It was devastating news for my family and I.

She continued: “After not responding to the chemotherapy, my only option was surgery and I had visions of looking like an elephant woman with a terribly disfigured face. When I took the call from the doctor at The Christie who confirmed that I was compatible for this trial, I felt very lucky. I told her that it couldn’t help me if I didn’t try it, so let’s give it a go. If nothing else, it has really given me hope.”

As the first drug of its type, the trial is initially recruiting small numbers of patients with the end aim to progress the trial to the next phase. It is for patients with advanced cancer with solid tumours who have not responded to any other treatment and will run in modules combining with different treatments through to 2018. 

By preventing the cancer cell DNA from being repaired, the cancer is more likely to die as a result of the chemotherapy. This could help to save lives as, even with the advances in delivering cancer drugs to the patient; some patients will still become resistant to their chemotherapy.

Around 600 clinical trials may be taking place at any one time in The Christie’s National Institute of Healthcare Research Clinical Research Facility, a large, high quality, dedicated clinical research environment where patients can participate in complex and early phase clinical trials.

The Christie is part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre working with The University of Manchester and Cancer Research UK to develop new anti-cancer treatments and run trials that are much more focused on individual patient characteristics.

The Christie treats approximately 44,000 patients each year and has one of the largest radiotherapy departments in the world and the largest chemotherapy unit in the UK.

The Christie has been named, by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), as one of the best hospitals providing opportunities for patients to take part in clinical research studies. 20th May marks International Clinical Trials Day, The Christie has long been a pioneer in clinical trials, and without the clinical trials research performed here hospitals around the world would not be using drugs such as Herceptin ,tamoxifen in breast cancer and more recently ipilimumab in melanoma as standard treatments today.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) are running an ’ok to ask’ campaign to mark their 10th anniversary on International Clinical Trials Day. For more information visit www.nihr.ac.uk.