PROTECT-PANC Trial Evaluates Precision Medicine Strategies in Patients with Pancreatic Cancer

Woman looking at computer monitorIn February, the Clinical Trials Office activated PROTECT-PANC, an investigator-initiated trial led by Mandana Kamgar, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Hematology and Oncology, that examines the efficacy and safety of personalized matched therapies in patients with pancreatic cancer at high risk of disease recurrence post-surgery. MCW is well-known for its excellence in treating patients within the LaBahn Pancreatic Cancer Program, however, the inherent chemotherapy- and radiation-resistant nature of the disease still results in many patients who experience recurrence after surgery. The fast-tracked trial provides an individualized, chemotherapy-free treatment for patients, and bolsters MCW’s dedication to advancing precision medicine strategies across a wide spectrum of cancer types.

“There’s a subset of patients who are at a very high risk of disease recurrence post-surgery, including those who lack normalization of tumor markers after surgery, positive margin of surgery, involvement of lymph nodes by cancer, and positive tumor circulating DNA in the blood after surgery,” said Dr. Kamgar. “There’s currently no standard on how to treat these patients, and many are left untreated until eventual recurrence of the disease, which is incurable and currently requires life-long chemotherapy. In this study, we’re hoping to identify personalized treatments with the highest potential to prevent further cancer growth and spread in each patient.”

Pancreatic cancer is a molecularly complex disease, with high ability to morph, evolve, and develop resistance while on current cancer treatments. It has unique subsets that are heavily dependent on a certain driver, and that can be treated effectively with targeted therapies abrogating this driver. “Precision medicine allows for identifying and treating these patients. Fortunately, with the advances in molecular profiling and cancer drug development, the number of patients belonging to this pool is ever increasing,” explained Dr. Kamgar.

Molecular profiling provides key insight into the specific genetic mutations driving a person’s cancer, allowing oncologists to tailor treatment plans to target those mutations effectively. Participants in PROTECT-PANC will have their tumor tissue or blood molecularly profiled and reviewed by MCW’s Molecular Tumor Board; the multidisciplinary group of experts will recommend an individualized treatment plan that targets specific molecular alterations found in each patient’s cancer.

The unique design of PROTECT-PANC and other institutional studies, such as MCW I-PREDICT led by Drs. Razelle Kurzrock and Ben George, provides a more effective way of treating patients, especially those with rare and aggressive cancers. Dr. Kamgar noted that these studies “do not become outdated with time and will only improve as molecular profiling and targeted therapies further advance.”

“The unique design of these studies—and the availability of precision medicine experts at MCW that make these studies possible—are allowing the Cancer Center to push the boundaries and set new standards in precision medicine,” she said.