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Cancer trials recognized as best in the world

Canadian Cancer Trials Group earned unprecedented distinction of having two trials presented at the Plenary Session of the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting

Two cancer trials conducted by the Queen’s University-based Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) and lead scientific investigators Chris O’Callaghan and Wendy Parulekar have been recognized as among the highest impact studies in the world.

The two trials are being included in the plenary session of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago.

“The papers that are chosen represent the best and most significant advances in cancer treatment and care, with the greatest potential influence” Dr. O’Callaghan says. “Only four papers were chosen for the ASCO plenary session out of more than 5,000 submissions - to have two selected from one research organization is a rare achievement.”

Dr. O’Callaghan was the senior investigator on the CE.6 trial that examined the use of the cancer drug temozolomide in the treatment of glioblastoma, an incurable form of brain cancer.  The trial found that adding the drug to a shortened course of radiation therapy, followed by monthly maintenance doses, significantly improved the survival rate of elderly patients.

The drug reduced the risk of death by 33 per cent, without loss of quality of life.

Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain tumor in adults and is one of the major causes of cancer death.

The co-principal investigators are Dr. James R. Perry (Sunnybrook Heath Sciences Centre) and Dr. Normand Laperriere (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre).

“While the incidence of glioblastoma is highest in the elderly population, a lack of clinical trial data in this age group has led to uncertainty about their optimal management,” says Dr. O’Callaghan. “The results of our study provide the first evidence from a randomized clinical trial that chemotherapy in combination with a shorter radiation schedule provides significant benefit for elderly patients. These results will be internationally practice changing.”

Dr. Parulekar supervised the MA.17R trial which discovered extending therapy with a commonly used hormone drug called an aromatase inhibitor from five to 10 years in postmenopausal women with early breast cancer reduces the risk of recurrence by 34 per cent.

The findings will be published concurrently in the New England Journal of Medicine. The lead author is Dr. Paul Goss (Harvard Medical School).

“This is the first study to report the impact of extended aromatase inhibitor therapy on breast cancer recurrence, side effects and quality of life in women with receptor positive breast cancer,” says Dr. Parulekar. “Based on the results of this trial, women and their health-care providers can make an informed decision about taking this type of treatment beyond five years, which is the current standard of care. The results of this study will immediately impact treatment practices on a global basis.”

Both trials were made possible through partnership of patients with a consortium of international cancer clinical trials groups, including the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC), Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG) and the North American-based National Cancer Trials Network (NCTN) based in the United Sates.  NCTN members Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group and SWOG took part in the research.

The ASCO annual meeting Collective Wisdom: The Future of Patient-Centered Care and Research will take place June 3-7.

The Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) is a cancer clinical trials cooperative group that conducts phase I-III trials testing anti-cancer and supportive therapies across Canada and internationally. It is a national program of the Canadian Cancer Society.  The CCTG's Central Operations and Statistics Office is located at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.