Groundbreaking brain cancer radiotherapy trial launched

A more targeted form of radiotherapy, currently only available to a small number of UK patients, will be trialled to see if it causes fewer long-term side effects than standard radiotherapy.

The £1.5m clinical trial, called APPROACH*, is funded by an NIHR and Medical Research Council (MRC) partnership – and led by researchers at the University of Leeds.

Experts will recruit patients with a type of brain cancer called oligodendroglioma. This form of cancer is diagnosed in around 350 patients in the UK each year.

The trial will determine whether proton beam therapy can reduce the long-term side effects of radiotherapy. The technology uses a beam of highly charged proton particles found inside every atom to destroy cancer cells. It works by releasing a powerful burst of energy at the tumour site. It delivers less radiation to the surrounding normal tissues and so can help to reduce side effects.

The trial will also look at whether the treatment improves quality of life for patients. This is compared to the standard radiotherapy currently used globally.

The trial is co-led by Dr Louise Murray, a Yorkshire Cancer Research-funded Associate Professor. She said: “We really need to know if this new technique can help reduce damage to the healthy brain tissue that surrounds a cancerous tumour, so that fewer patients have their lives affected by cognitive problems, such as difficulties with memory and processing information. Problems like these can have a huge impact on daily life.

“This trial is vital to determine how we can use radiotherapy treatments appropriately, to give patients the best possible future.”