A groundbreaking telehealth-based cancer clinical trial is set to revolutionize treatment for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) will offer this innovative therapy, providing a convenient and accessible option for eligible individuals from the comfort of their own homes.
Dr. Sameek Roychowdhury, a medical oncologist at OSUCCC – James and the principal investigator of the study, explains the challenges faced by patients seeking specialized cancer treatment. Traveling for such treatment is often prohibitively expensive, especially for rare and aggressive cancers like pancreatic cancer. Clinical trials, which offer the most up-to-date and targeted treatments for advanced cases, can be crucial for patients in need.
The study focuses on the use of “smart drugs,” a promising avenue in cancer treatment. These drugs specifically target genetic mutations responsible for cancer cell growth. By delivering precise treatment tailored to each patient’s disease characteristics, targeted therapies hold great potential. In this case, the therapy targets fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFR), a genetic mutation found in approximately 1% of pancreatic cancer patients.
Pancreatic cancer is a relatively rare but aggressive form of the disease, affecting around 64,000 individuals annually. It is more prevalent in men and often diagnosed at later stages, making treatment more challenging. Symptoms typically appear after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. While surgery can be curative in early stages, most cases are detected when the cancer has already advanced, limiting treatment options. This is why expanding access to clinical trials for targeted drug therapy is crucial.
Precision cancer medicine research, also known as “smart drug” research, aims to identify gene mutations driving cancer behavior and develop novel therapies to target those mutations. One major hurdle in precision oncology trials is the rarity of some gene mutations, which reduces pharmaceutical company interest and feasibility.
The rise of telemedicine, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, offers a silver lining. It helps overcome barriers to accessing cancer clinical trials. The new telehealth study will allow patients from across the United States to receive oral targeted drug therapies without the need to travel. Follow-up care will be provided through telehealth consultations between Dr. Roychowdhury and the patient’s local oncologist.
Dr. Roychowdhury, who has a decade of experience with FGFR smart drugs, considers this telehealth trial a game changer for both cancer research and patient care. The initial research on FGFR, which laid the foundation for this treatment concept, was supported by Gateway for Cancer Research, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding early-phase clinical trials for various types of cancer. Gateway is an early adopter and innovator in decentralized oncology research, aiming to raise awareness of telemedicine-based clinical trials so that patients understand the options available, regardless of their proximity to research sites.
The new clinical trial involves collaborations with Incyte Pharmaceuticals, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Foundation Medicine Inc., and Caris Life Sciences. By bringing clinical trial treatment options directly to patients and partnering with community oncologists throughout the United States, the study aims to expand access to much-needed therapies and facilitate meaningful discoveries through larger patient groups.
Dr. Roychowdhury’s team has also established a registry for patients to join, supporting research on rare forms of pancreatic cancer. The trial is expected to begin enrolling patients in late 2023. Those interested in participating in the study or the registry can reach out via email to Sameek.Roychowdhury@osumc.edu. To learn more about gastrointestinal treatment and research at OSUCCC – James, visit cancer.osu.edu.