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1.  Phase I study evaluating the treatment of patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer with carbon ion radiotherapy: the PHOENIX-01 trial 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:419.
Background
Treatment options for patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer include surgery, chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy. In many cases, surgical resection is not possible, and therefore treatment alternatives have to be performed. Chemoradiation has been established as a convincing treatment alternative for locally advanced pancreatic cancer. Carbon ions offer physical and biological characteristics. Due to their inverted dose profile and the high local dose deposition within the Bragg peak precise dose application and sparing of normal tissue is possible. Moreover, in comparison to photons, carbon ions offer an increased relative biological effectiveness (RBE), which can be calculated between 1.16 and 2.46 depending on the pancreatic cancer cell line as well as the endpoint analyzed. Japanese Data on the evaluation of carbon ion radiation therapy showed promising results for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Methods and design
The present PHOENIX-01 trial evaluates carbon ion radiotherapy using the active rasterscanning technique in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer in combination with weekly gemcitabine and adjuvant gemcitabine. Primary endpoint is toxicity, secondary endpoints are overall survival, progression-free survival and response.
Discussion
The physical and biological properties of the carbon ion beam promise to improve the therapeutic ratio in patients with pancreatic cancer: Due to the inverted dose profile dose deposition in the entry channel of the beam leads to sparing of normal tissue; the Bragg peak can be directed into the defined target volume, and the sharp dose fall-off thereafter again spares normal tissue behind the target volume. The higher RBE of carbon ions, which has been shown also for pancreatic cancer cell lines in the preclinical setting, is likely to contribute to an increase in local control, and perhaps in OS. Early data from Japanese centers have shown promising results. In conclusion, this is the first trial to evaluate actively delivered carbon ion beams in patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer within a dose-escalation strategy.
Trial registration
NCT01795274
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-419
PMCID: PMC3849371  PMID: 24034562
2.  AB0 blood group and prognosis in patients with pancreatic cancer 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:319.
Background
Although blood group 0 is associated with a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer, little is known about the role of AB0 blood group antigens in disease progression. We assessed the prognostic relevance of AB0 blood status in a large cohort of patients with resected pancreatic cancer.
Methods
A total of 627 patients, who underwent resection for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma between October 2001 and December 2008 were enrolled. The relationship between AB0 blood group status and outcome was analyzed using univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses.
Results
In patients with pancreatic cancer the incidence of blood group 0 (31%) was lower compared to 13.044 patients without pancreatic cancer (38%) (p = 0.0005). There were no significant differences in clinicopathologic characteristics among patients with different AB0 blood groups. The 3-year and 5-year overall survival rates were 29% and 14%. On univariate analysis AB0 blood group status did not correlate with survival (p = 0.39). Multivariate analysis, however, revealed a favorable and independent impact of blood group 0 on survival (Hazard ratio 0.78; 95% confidence interval 0.62 – 0.99; p = 0.037).
Conclusion
AB0 blood group status is associated independently with the prognosis of patients with resected pancreatic cancer.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-319
PMCID: PMC3488322  PMID: 22838843
3.  Resection of the primary tumour versus no resection prior to systemic therapy in patients with colon cancer and synchronous unresectable metastases (UICC stage IV): SYNCHRONOUS - a randomised controlled multicentre trial (ISRCTN30964555) 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:142.
Background
Currently, it remains unclear, if patients with colon cancer and synchronous unresectable metastases who present without severe symptoms should undergo resection of the primary tumour prior to systemic chemotherapy. Resection of the primary tumour may be associated with significant morbidity and delays the beginning of chemotherapy. However, it may prevent local symptoms and may, moreover, prolong survival as has been demonstrated in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. It is the aim of the present randomised controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of primary tumour resection prior to systemic chemotherapy to prolong survival in patients with newly diagnosed colon cancer who are not amenable to curative therapy.
Methods/design
The SYNCHRONOUS trial is a multicentre, randomised, controlled, superiority trial with a two-group parallel design. Colon cancer patients with synchronous unresectable metastases are eligible for inclusion. Exclusion criteria are primary tumour-related symptoms, inability to tolerate surgery and/or systemic chemotherapy and history of another primary cancer. Resection of the primary tumour as well as systemic chemotherapy is provided according to the standards of the participating institution. The primary endpoint is overall survival that is assessed with a minimum follow-up of 36 months. Furthermore, it is the objective of the trial to assess the safety of both treatment strategies as well as quality of life.
Discussion
The SYNCHRONOUS trial is a multicentre, randomised, controlled trial to assess the efficacy and safety of primary tumour resection before beginning of systemic chemotherapy in patients with metastatic colon cancer not amenable to curative therapy.
Trial registration
ISRCTN30964555
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-142
PMCID: PMC3348093  PMID: 22480173
4.  Phase I/II trial evaluating carbon ion radiotherapy for the treatment of recurrent rectal cancer: the PANDORA-01 trial 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:137.
Background
Treatment standard for patients with rectal cancer depends on the initial staging and includes surgical resection, radiotherapy as well as chemotherapy. For stage II and III tumors, radiochemotherapy should be performed in addition to surgery, preferentially as preoperative radiochemotherapy or as short-course hypofractionated radiation. Advances in surgical approaches, especially the establishment of the total mesorectal excision (TME) in combination with sophisticated radiation and chemotherapy have reduced local recurrence rates to only few percent. However, due to the high incidence of rectal cancer, still a high absolute number of patients present with recurrent rectal carcinomas, and effective treatment is therefore needed.
Carbon ions offer physical and biological advantages. Due to their inverted dose profile and the high local dose deposition within the Bragg peak precise dose application and sparing of normal tissue is possible. Moreover, in comparison to photons, carbon ions offer an increase relative biological effectiveness (RBE), which can be calculated between 2 and 5 depending on the cell line as well as the endpoint analyzed.
Japanese data on the treatment of patients with recurrent rectal cancer previously not treated with radiation therapy have shown local control rates of carbon ion treatment superior to those of surgery. Therefore, this treatment concept should also be evaluated for recurrences after radiotherapy, when dose application using conventional photons is limited. Moreover, these patients are likely to benefit from the enhanced biological efficacy of carbon ions.
Methods and design
In the current Phase I/II-PANDORA-01-Study the recommended dose of carbon ion radiotherapy for recurrent rectal cancer will be determined in the Phase I part, and feasibilty and progression-free survival will be assessed in the Phase II part of the study.
Within the Phase I part, increasing doses from 12 × 3 Gy E to 18 × 3 Gy E will be applied.
The primary endpoint in the Phase I part is toxicity, the primary endpoint in the Phase II part is progression-free survival.
Discussion
With conventional photon irradiation treatment of recurrent rectal cancer is limited, and the clinical effect is only moderate. With carbon ions, an improved outcome can be expected due to the physical and biological characteristics of the carbon ion beam. However, the optimal dose applicable in this clincial situation as re-irradiation still has to be determined. This, as well as efficacy, is to be evaluated in the present Phase I/II trial.
Trial registration
NCT01528683
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-137
PMCID: PMC3342902  PMID: 22472035
5.  A randomized controlled trial to investigate the influence of low dose radiotherapy on immune stimulatory effects in liver metastases of colorectal cancer 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:419.
Background
Insufficient migration and activation of tumor specific effector T cells in the tumor is one of the main reasons for inadequate host anti-tumor immune response. External radiation seems to induce inflammation and activate the immune response. This phase I/II clinical trial aims to evaluate whether low dose single fraction radiotherapy can improve T cell associated antitumor immune response in patients with colorectal liver metastases.
Methods/Design
This is an investigator-initiated, prospective randomised, 4-armed, controlled Phase I/II trial. Patients undergoing elective hepatic resection due to colorectal cancer liver metastasis will be enrolled in the study. Patients will receive 0 Gy, 0.5 Gy, 2 Gy or 5 Gy radiation targeted to their liver metastasis. Radiation will be applied by external beam radiotherapy using a 6 MV linear accelerator (Linac) with intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) technique two days prior to surgical resection. All patients admitted to the Department of General-, Visceral-, and Transplantion Surgery, University of Heidelberg for elective hepatic resection are consecutively screened for eligibility into this trial, and written informed consent is obtained before inclusion. The primary objective is to assess the effect of active local external beam radiation dose on, tumor infiltrating T cells as a surrogate parameter for antitumor activity. Secondary objectives include radiogenic treatment toxicity, postoperative morbidity and mortality, local tumor control and recurrence patterns, survival and quality of life. Furthermore, frequencies of systemic tumor reactive T cells in blood and bone marrow will be correlated with clinical outcome.
Discussion
This is a randomized controlled patient blinded trial to assess the safety and efficiency of low dose radiotherapy on metastasis infiltrating T cells and thus potentially enhance the antitumor immune response.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01191632
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-419
PMCID: PMC3195202  PMID: 21961577
colorectal liver metastasis; low dose radiation; tumor specific T cells
6.  Expression and prognostic value of circulating angiogenic cytokines in pancreatic cancer 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:286.
Background
The utility of circulating angiogenic cytokines (CAC) as biomarkers in pancreatic cancer has not been clarified yet. We investigated the expression and prognostic associations of seven CAC in patients with pancreatic cancer.
Methods
Serum samples were collected preoperatively in patients undergoing surgery for localized pancreatic cancer (n = 74), metastatic pancreatic cancer (n = 24) or chronic pancreatitis (n = 20) and in healthy controls (n = 48). Quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays and multiplex protein arrays were used to determine circulating levels of VEGF, VEGFR-1, PlGF, PDGF-AA, PDGF-BB, Ang-1 and EGF. Multivariate analyses on cancer-specific survival were performed with a Cox proportional hazards model.
Results
VEGF (p < 0.0001), PDGF-AA (p < 0.0001), Ang-1 (p = 0.002) and EGF (p < 0.0001) were differentially expressed in patients with pancreatic cancer compared to healthy controls. The presence of lymph node metastases was associated with increased levels of all CAC except for PlGF, whereas there were only minor associations of CAC with other clinicopathologic variables. The multivariate model including the entire angiogenic panel revealed high levels of circulating PDGF-AA (hazard ratio 4.58; 95% confidence interval 1.43 - 14.69) as predictor of poor cancer-specific survival, whereas high levels of PDGF-BB (0.15; 0.15 - 0.88), Ang-1 (0.30; 0.10 - 0.93) and VEGF (0.24; 0.09 - 0.57) were associated with a favorable prognosis.
Conclusion
Circulating levels of certain angiogenic cytokines correlate with patients' prognosis after resection for pancreatic cancer, if a panel of several CAC is considered simultaneously. These data should be considered in future studies evaluating angiogenic factors as prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets in patients with pancreatic cancer.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-286
PMCID: PMC3144458  PMID: 21729304
7.  An open label randomized multicentre phase IIIb trial comparing parenteral substitution versus best supportive nutritional care in subjects with pancreatic adenocarcinoma receiving 5-FU plus oxaliplatin as 2nd or higher line chemotherapy regarding clinical benefit - PANUSCO 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:412.
Background
Pancreatic cancer is an extremely aggressive malignancy. Subjects are afflicted with a variety of disconcerting symptoms, including profound cachexia. Recent data indicate that the outcome of oncological patients suffering from cancer cachexia could be improved by parenteral nutrition and that parenteral nutrition results in an improvement of quality of life and in prolonged survival.
Currently, there is no recommendation of routine use of parenteral nutrition. Furthermore, there is no clear recommendation for 2nd line therapy (or higher) for pancreatic adenocarcinoma but often asked for.
Methods/Design
PANUSCO is an open label, controlled, prospective, randomized, multicentre phase IIIb trial with two parallel arms. All patients will be treated with 5-fluorouracil, folinic acid and oxaliplatin on an outpatient basis at the study sites. Additionally, all patients will receive best supportive nutritional care (BSNC). In the experimental group BSNC will be expanded with parenteral nutrition (PN). In contrast, patients in the control group obtain solely BSNC. Parenteral nutrition will be applied overnight and at home by experienced medical staff.
A total of 120 patients are planned to be enrolled. Primary endpoint is the comparison of the treatment groups with respect to event-free survival (EFS), defined as the time from randomization till time to development of an event defined as either an impairment (change from baseline of at least ten points in EORTC QLQ-C30, functional domain total score) or withdrawal due to fulfilling the special defined stopping criteria for chemotherapy as well as for nutritional intervention (NI) or death from any cause (whichever occurs first).
Discussion
The aim of this clinical trial is to evaluate whether parenteral nutrition in combination with defined 2nd line or higher chemotherapy has an impact on quality of life for patients suffering from pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN60516908.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-412
PMCID: PMC2787534  PMID: 19943918
8.  Pancreatic cancerrelated cachexia: influence on metabolism and correlation to weight loss and pulmonary function 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:255.
Background
Dramatic weight loss is an often underestimated symptom in pancreatic cancer patients. Cachexia- defined as an unintended loss of stable weight exceeding 10% – is present in up to 80% of patients with cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract, and has a significant influence on survival. The aim of the study was to show the multiple systemic effects of cachexia in pancreatic cancer patients, in terms of resection rate, effects on pulmonary function, amount of fat and muscle tissue, as well as changes in laboratory parameters.
Methods
In patients with pancreatic cancer, clinical appearance was documented, including the amount of weight loss. Laboratory parameters and lung-function tests were evaluated, and the thickness of muscle and fat tissue was measured with computed tomography scans. Statistical analysis, including multivariate analysis, was performed using SPSS software. Survival curves were calculated using Kaplan-Meier analysis and the log-rank test. To test for significant differences between the examined groups we used Student's t-test and the Mann-Whitney U test. Significance was defined as p < 0.05.
Results
Of 198 patients with a ductal adenocarcinoma of the pancreas, 70% were suffering from weight loss when they presented for operation, and in 40% weight loss exceeded 10% of the stable weight. In patients with cachexia, metastases were diagnosed significantly more often (47% vs. 24%, P < 0.001), leading to a significantly reduced resection rate in these patients. Patients with cachexia had significantly reduced fat tissue amounts. Hence, dramatic weight loss in a patient with pancreatic cancer may be a hint of a more progressed or more aggressive tumour.
Conclusion
Pancreatic cancer patients with cachexia had a higher rate of more progressed tumour stages and a worse nutritional status. Furthermore, patients with cachexia had an impaired lung function and a reduction in fat tissue. Patients with pancreatic cancer and cachexia had significantly reduced survival. If weight loss exceeded 5% there was a significantly reduced resection rate to detect, but the changes were significantly more substantial if weight loss was 10% or more. We propose that a weight loss of 10% be defined as significant in pancreatic cancer.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-255
PMCID: PMC2741486  PMID: 19635171
9.  A Randomized Multicentre Phase II Trial Comparing Adjuvant Therapy in Patients with Interferon Alpha-2b and 5-FU Alone or in Combination with Either External Radiation Treatment and Cisplatin (CapRI) or Radiation alone regarding Event-Free Survival – CapRI-2 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:160.
Background
The 5-year survival of patients with resected pancreatic adenocarcinoma is still unsatisfying. The ESPAC-1 and the CONKO 001 trial proofed that adjuvant chemotherapy improves 5-year survival significantly from approximately 14% to 21%. In parallel, investigators from the Virginia Mason Clinic reported a 5-year survival rate of 55% in a phase II trial evaluating a combination of adjuvant chemotherapy, immunotherapy and external beam radiation (CapRI-scheme). Two other groups confirmed in phase II trials these results to a certain extent. However, these groups reported severe gastrointestinal toxicity (up to 93% grade 3 or 4 toxicity). In a randomized controlled phase III trial, called CapRI, 110 patients were enrolled from 2004 to 2007 in Germany and Italy to check for reproducibility. Interestingly, much less gastrointestinal toxicity was observed. However, dose-reduction due to haematological side effects had to be performed in nearly all patients. First clinical results are expected for the end of 2009.
Methods/Design
CapRI-2 is an open, controlled, prospective, randomized, multicentre phase II trial with three parallel arms. A de-escalation of the CapRI-scheme will be tested in two different modifications. Patients in study arm A will be treated as outpatients with the complete CapRI-scheme consisting of cisplatin, Interferon alpha-2b and external beam radiation and three cycles of 5-fluorouracil continuous infusion. In study arm B the first de-escalation will be realised by omitting cisplatin. Next, patients in study arm C will additionally not receive external beam radiation. A total of 135 patients with pathologically confirmed R0 or R1 resected pancreatic adenocarcinoma are planned to be enrolled. Primary endpoint is the comparison of the treatment groups with respect to six-month event-free-survival. An event is defined as grade 3 or grade 4 toxicity, objective tumour recurrence, or death.
Discussion
The aim of this clinical trial is to evaluate de-escalation of the CapRI-scheme. It is hypothesised that removal of cisplatin and radiotherapy will have no significant effect or only a minor impact on the clinical response but result in substantially lower toxicity.
Trial Registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN79802092
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-160
PMCID: PMC2696468  PMID: 19470159
10.  Ampullary adenocarcinoma – differentiation matters 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:251.
The periampullary region gives rise to two main subtypes of adenocarcinoma that show either pancreatobiliary or intestinal differentiation. New data demonstrates that the histological subtype – more so than the anatomical location – is an important independent prognostic factor. This fuels the discussion about maintaining ampullary cancer as a separate entity.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-251
PMCID: PMC2553420  PMID: 18761739
11.  Corticosteroid co-treatment induces resistance to chemotherapy in surgical resections, xenografts and established cell lines of pancreatic cancer 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:61.
Background
Chemotherapy for pancreatic carcinoma often has severe side effects that limit its efficacy. The glucocorticoid (GC) dexamethasone (DEX) is frequently used as co-treatment to prevent side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea, for palliative purposes and to treat allergic reactions. While the potent pro-apoptotic properties and the supportive effects of GCs to tumour therapy in lymphoid cells are well studied, the impact of GCs to cytotoxic treatment of pancreatic carcinoma is unknown.
Methods
A prospective study of DEX-mediated resistance was performed using a pancreatic carcinoma xenografted to nude mice, 20 surgical resections and 10 established pancreatic carcinoma cell lines. Anti-apoptotic signaling in response to DEX was examined by Western blot analysis.
Results
In vitro, DEX inhibited drug-induced apoptosis and promoted the growth in all of 10 examined malignant cells. Ex vivo, DEX used in physiological concentrations significantly prevented the cytotoxic effect of gemcitabine and cisplatin in 18 of 20 freshly isolated cell lines from resected pancreatic tumours. No correlation with age, gender, histology, TNM and induction of therapy resistance by DEX co-treatment could be detected. In vivo, DEX totally prevented cytotoxicity of chemotherapy to pancreatic carcinoma cells xenografted to nude mice. Mechanistically, DEX upregulated pro-survival factors and anti-apoptotic genes in established pancreatic carcinoma cells.
Conclusion
These data show that DEX induces therapy resistance in pancreatic carcinoma cells and raise the question whether GC-mediated protection of tumour cells from cancer therapy may be dangerous for patients.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-61
PMCID: PMC1434760  PMID: 16539710

Results 1-11 (11)