UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center Joins National Effort to Improve Survival for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

UCSF Has a Lead Role in Large Precision Medicine Trial

By Vicky Agnew | October 04, 2016

Pancreatic cancer cells. Image courtesy of NIH Images

The UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 12 academic centers in the U.S. joining a large national precision medicine study that aims to improve survival for pancreatic cancer patients. The trial, called Precision Promise, is a joint effort between the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, cancer research and treatment centers, and the pharmaceutical industry. The goal of Precision Promise is to double survival by 2020.

Pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer related death in the United States and is anticipated to become the second around 2020. The disease kills more people than breast cancer, with a five-year survival of just eight percent. Nationally, only four percent of pancreatic cancer patients enroll in clinical trials.

UCSF Cancer News

Andrew Ko, MD
Professor, Department of Medicine, UCSF

Andrew Ko, MD, professor of medicine and lead principal investigator at UCSF for Precision Promise, said enrollment of pancreatic cancer patients in therapeutic studies at UCSF is higher than national levels, but that there is still significant room for improvement. He notes that the university’s strengths in clinical trial design, genomics, immunotherapy, and DNA repair makes it a great partner for the multi-year study.

“We're excited to have been selected as one of the inaugural sites for what promises to be an exciting and unprecedented effort, and to have the opportunity to work closely with our colleagues at other centers of excellence who share our commitment to tackling this tough disease,” Ko said. “With such a small proportion of patients participating in clinical trials, this consortium will essentially guarantee that every interested and eligible patient will be able to undergo extensive molecular profiling of their cancer, and be able to receive a new drug as part of their treatment, whether it be an immunotherapy, an agent that targets the tumor microenvironment, or a regimen that exploits the cancer's defective DNA damage repair capacity.”

Precision Promise, which begins enrolling patients in early 2017, will investigate multiple treatment options, called sub-studies, under one clinical trial design that employs an individualized treatment approach based on the molecular profile of a patient and their tumor.  The sub-studies are designed to allow patients shift to another option if tumors do not respond.

Sub-studies can be added for newly discovered biomarkers and treatment approaches, so the field can learn which patients will most benefit from these new developments, and deliver new, effective treatments to patients sooner.

Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, president of UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Family Cancer Center, served on an advisory group for Precision Promise.

“Pancreatic cancer is an incredibly challenging disease, and one in which we’ve made distressingly little progress. More often than not, we catch it in advanced stages, and as a result, we have very few options to offer patients.” “Ashworth said. “These large, national studies that offer eligible patients alternatives during the course of treatment is a relatively new way of working, and that’s how we’ll develop new approaches for an intransigent cancer like pancreatic cancer.”

Other principal investigators from UCSF include: Margaret Tempero, MD, professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Pancreas center; and Eric Collisson, MD, associate professor of medicine.

>Read more on Precision Promise