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NIHR | Manchester Biomedical Research Centre

Second phase of trial to match patients to the right cancer treatment now open

Researchers across Manchester have pulled together to open phase two of the TARGET cancer trial, which is on track to recruit over 100 patients in its first year.  This is a significant achievement in the wake of the fire at the Paterson Building in April.

The TARGET trial aims to develop and apply a simple blood test (liquid biopsy) as an alternative to traditional biopsy that can be used to undertake the detailed genetic analysis required to help match patients to the right trial and treatment.  The approach developed in Manchester detects circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) which is shed via tumour cell death into the bloodstream.  The trial is funded by CRUK, The Christie charity, and the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

Traditionally tumour characterisation has been performed using a tumour biopsy, obtained through an invasive procedure which is not always feasible to repeat during a course of treatment.  Our researchers have previously demonstrated that a simple, non-invasive blood test (liquid biopsy) developed at the CRUK Manchester Institute is a viable alternative, with results mirroring those of a traditional biopsy.

Phase one of the TARGET trial recruited 100 participants to establish the operational processes for molecularly profiling tumour material from cancer patients in liquid biopsy and tumour biopsy material.

This included the establishment of a monthly molecular tumour board comprising scientists, bio-informaticians, clinicians, ethicists and analysts to review up to a dozen cases per hour. Some 40% of patients have been found in this first phase to have molecular data which is informative to clinicians in determining the optimal phase 1 trial and which is higher than published data from other cancer centres likely due to the proprietary bioinformatics platform we have developed.

Phase two of the trial aims to recruit 100 patients over the next year into an appropriate experimental (early phase) cancer study, and is being supported by three BRC-funded posts (clinical research nurse, trials coordinator and bioinformatician).

The TARGET trial is supported by the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, and genomics laboratories at the Cancer Research UK  Manchester Institute and Saint Mary’s Hospital at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.

Caroline Dive, Head of the Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology group and Deputy Director of the CRUK Manchester Institute said: “Despite the fire at the Paterson Building, which housed the majority of the CRUK Manchester Institute together with other University of Manchester cancer researchers, and through the considerable flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit of our staff and partners, we have rapidly set up a satellite site for the continued analysis of circulating tumour DNA in patients’ blood samples at Saint Mary’s Hospital, where we will profile patients’ ctDNA until a longer term temporary base at Alderley Park is established early next year.”