Cedars-Sinai Chosen for Pancreatic Cancer Trials

This image shows irregular glands (arrows) infiltrating into pancreatic tissue. These glands characterize pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, a type of pancreatic cancer.

Cedars-Sinai has been selected to be one of 12 initial clinical trial sites that aim to fast-track development of potential treatments for pancreatic cancer patients. The first-of-its-kind national effort, in which Cedars-Sinai is taking a leading role, is designed to dramatically speed up the clinical trial process.

The project, spearheaded by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network — a nonprofit that advances research and supports patients with pancreatic cancer — is using a collaborative and cooperative approach to clinical trials. This method is a departure from the typical process, in which study results are fragmented among various institutions and new drugs and treatments take longer to move from the laboratory bench to the bedside.

"This unique, multiyear effort will bring together cancer centers, researchers and drug developers, providing our patients with the best clinical trial options at warp speed," said Andrew E. Hendifar, MD, co-director of Pancreas Oncology and medical oncology lead for the Gastrointestinal Disease Research Group at Cedars-Sinai.

Beginning in spring 2017, researchers at the 12 sites will conduct sub-studies on several treatment options. Each study will fall under a clinical trial design that uses an individualized treatment approach based on the molecular profile of a patient and the patient's tumor.

Genetic data and clinical trial results from all the sites will be analyzed together so that scientific findings can be distributed quickly to researchers, helping them match a sub-study to a patient’s individual needs. Once in treatment, patients will be closely monitored and will have follow-up analyses to help researchers understand how well each treatment is working in real time.

Andrew E. Hendifar, MD

Richard Tuli, MD, PhD

Sub-studies can be added for newly discovered biomarkers and treatment approaches as the project progresses, allowing the scientists to learn which patients will benefit most from the new developments. Patients can quickly shift from one option to another.

"We believe that this patient-centric approach will change the future of pancreatic cancer care," said Hendifar, an assistant professor of Medicine.

The disease is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States — killing more people than breast cancer — with a five-year survival rate of only 8 percent, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Hendifar and Richard Tuli, MD, PhD, an attending radiation oncologist, co-director of Pancreas Oncology and associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology, will serve as the primary Cedars-Sinai investigators. They will be responsible for designing and conducting the clinical trial studies, which involves selecting participants, reporting treatment side effects, gathering and reporting data, and publishing their results.

The 12 clinical trial sites were selected through a competitive, peer-reviewed process. In addition to Cedars-Sinai, the sites are the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center; the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance/University of Washington; the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of California, San Diego; the University of Chicago; the University of Florida; the University of Michigan; the University of Pennsylvania; Virginia Mason Medical Center; and Washington University.

"We are incredibly excited to be joining world leaders in pancreatic cancer science and treatment to revolutionize our approach to clinical trials for this disease," Hendifar said. "It’s good for science and good for patients."