A study looking at PET scans to show how well chemotherapy is working for cancer of the pancreas

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Pancreatic cancer





This study is to see if a PET scan can show changes in pancreatic cancer after gemcitabine chemotherapy. Cancer of the pancreas is very difficult to treat. Gemcitabine is a drug that doctors often use to treat cancer of the pancreas. But although it helps some people, it does not work for everyone, and like all chemotherapy, it has side effects. Doctors don’t want to put people through long courses of treatment with side effects if it will not help.

Researchers in this study are looking at PET scans to see if they can show early on that the chemotherapy is working. The PET scan in this study is using a tracer that is a radioactive substance called FLT. Because cancer cells grow faster than the normal cells around them, they will take up more of the radioactive substance, and so stand out clearly on the scan. If the chemotherapy is slowing down the cancer growth, the cancer won’t take up so much of the tracer. So they should be able to compare the cancer pictures before and during the course of chemotherapy to see if the treatment is helping. The team will also take blood samples to look for proteins that may show how well treatment is working. They will compare the level of these proteins with the scan information before and after treatment. And look at cancer cells from the tissue sample you had removed before diagnosis, to compare what they find with the scan information.

The main aim of this study is to see how useful PET scanning is to show whether gemcitabine chemotherapy is working in people with pancreatic cancer. You will not get any direct benefit from taking part in this study, and it is unlikely to change your treatment plan in any way. But the results of the study will be used to help people with cancer in the future.

Who can enter

You can enter this study if

  • You are under the care of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London
  • You have a type of pancreatic cancer called exocrine pancreatic cancer
  • Your cancer has spread to surrounding tissue (locally advanced Open a glossary item) or to another part of your body
  • You are due to have chemotherapy with gemcitabine
  • You have an area of cancer that can be measured on a scan and is at least 2cm across
  • You have satisfactory blood test results
  • You are well enough to carry out all your normal activities, apart from heavy physical work (performance status of less than 2)
  • You are willing to use reliable contraception during the study if there is any chance that you or your partner could become pregnant
  • You are at least 18 years old

You cannot enter this study if you

  • Have had chemotherapy in the last 3 weeks, or radiotherapy in the last 4 weeks
  • Have a disease affecting your stomach or bowel
  • Have an uncontrolled infection
  • Have a condition where your red blood cells break down (haemolysis)
  • Would not be able to cope with the scan sessions for any reason, for example you find it difficult to lie flat
  • Have any other physical or mental health condition that would make you unwell if you took part or affect the results of the study
  • Have a non medical reason why you would not find it easy to take part, for example you live too far away to make every appointment
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

Trial design

This study will recruit 28 people. Everyone will have 2 PET scans and give some samples of blood.

For each scan, the team will put a very thin plastic tube into a vein in your arm. You then lie on the scanner bed, and have a scan of your tummy area (abdomen). The team will next inject some radioactive tracer into the tube in your arm, and carry out another scan on your tummy. They will then take about 8 teaspoons of blood from the tube in your arm. The scan will last about an hour. You will be able to listen to music during the scan, and bring in your own CDs. After the scan, you can go home.

Each scan visit will last about 3 hours. If the team cannot see your cancer on the first scan, you will not be able to carry on in the study.

The team will also ask your permission to look at the tissue samples (biopsies) taken when you were diagnosed. If you agree, they will use the tissue to look for links with how the cancer looks in the scan pictures.

They will also compare the PET scan pictures with the routine CT scan pictures you have taken after 3 or 4 cycles of chemotherapy.

Hospital visits

You have your study PET scans

  • A few days before you start chemotherapy
  • Between 15 and 20 days after your first dose of chemotherapy

Side effects

By having the 2 PET scans in the study, you will be exposed to a little extra radiation. We are all exposed to a very small amount of radiation during the course of a normal day (background radiation). The amount of radiation you have from these 2 PET scans is about the same as 12 years of background radiation.

The radioactive tracer injection breaks down and disappears from the body within a few hours.

You may also have back pain from lying still in the scanner, and a small bruise where the tube was inserted into your arm.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Rohini Sharma

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
Imperial College London
Medical Research Council (MRC)
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 8044

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

Last reviewed:

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