The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Department of Energy (DOE) recently issued awards to plan for future research capabilities and to advance instrumentation and methods for particle beam therapies that could potentially complement or provide alternatives to certain cancer therapies.
In another step to stay on the cutting edge of this promising field, the NCI this week announced an upcoming solicitation for proposals to conduct clinical trials on “Carbon Ion versus Conventional Radiation Therapy for Locally Advanced, Unresectable Pancreatic Cancer.”
This type of cancer is particularly difficult to treat; only about 10% of patients diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer survive for more than two years, and their prognosis has not improved much since the 1970s.
Carbon ion beam therapy is not yet widely available but researchers have reported that, in studies, nearly half of pancreatic cancer patients who were treated with carbon ion therapy survived to the two-year mark or beyond.
Appropriately controlled trials such as those sought by NCI are needed to validate the benefits of such therapies.
In preparation for the solicitation, NCI issued a Sources Sought Notice late last year with information about protocols and processes that were being considered. The announcement of the solicitation appeared this week in Federal Business Opportunities and the full solicitation will be published via the same vehicle in the near future.
The initiation of clinical trials is a critical next step in quantifying the efficacy of carbon ion therapy, and in building a solid foundation of evidence upon which to move forward in this promising area.
Altaf H. (Tof) Carim is Assistant Director for Research Infrastructure, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy