Christie research team makes medical breakthrough

Press release posted 4 July 2019

Manchester team completes world-leading research into biliary tract cancer 

A research team from The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and The University of Manchester has successfully trialled a treatment for patients with advanced biliary tract cancer which has been proven to help them live longer. The results of the ABC-06 trial were presented at a prestigious international cancer conference and will set as the new global standard of care for patients with this rare and incurable disease.

This significant research has shown that patients’ chances of surviving after 12 months increased from 10% to 25% from starting a second course of chemotherapy. The randomised trial involved 162 patients and took place over four years (between 2014 and 2018) across the whole of the UK.

The Manchester Clinical Trials Unit, that provides support and expertise for the development and delivery of clinical trials, coordinated the study which took place in the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility at The Christie.

Approximately 1,600 people a year are diagnosed with cancer of the bile duct* and gallbladder in the UK. Professor Juan Valle and the gastro-intestinal research team in Manchester have been global leaders in researching new treatments for this disease since 2010 when they established the current standard of care.

Professor Juan Valle from The Christie and The University of Manchester, who led the trial, commented: “Although additional chemotherapy is of modest benefit to patients, it’s a significant step in the right direction. More importantly, this is the first trial addressing this question and our results will provide a new benchmark for the whole community of doctors and researchers and will help inform future studies.”

Jean Keeling, an 82 year old biliary tract cancer patient from Macclesfield in Cheshire who took part in a different clinical trial after she was diagnosed in 2015 said: “The gastro-intestinal research team at The Christie is doing amazing work and their trials will help patients in the future. As a biliary tract cancer patient, I took part in a separate trial a few years ago and now have been off treatment for two and a half years. I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to ask about any clinical trials which may be suitable.”  

Helen Morement, CEO of AMMF – The Cholangiocarcinoma Charity said: “The annual incidence of biliary tract cancers has risen steeply and steadily across the world over past years. In 2013, bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma) and gallbladder cancer were the cause of 2,599 deaths in England alone (bile duct cancer: 2161; gallbladder cancer: 438). While survival statistics for many other cancers show recent significant improvement, with very little in the treatment armoury for biliary tract cancers, fewer than one in 20 of these patients survive five years after diagnosis.  A truly devastating situation and one that hasn’t improved in decades.

“The positive outcome of the ABC-06 trial, showing an albeit modest survival improvement, is certainly welcomed by AMMF as this will mean there is now a treatment for those patients for whom, until this point, there was no proven second line treatment. And, importantly, the success of this study could help inform the direction of future studies.”

The study was funded through Cancer Research UK as well as funding from AMMF, Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation and The Christie charity.

For more information on biliary tract cancer, visit the AMMF website.

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.