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

Cancer type:

Pancreatic cancer





This study was to see if a PET-CT scan showed changes in pancreatic cancer after gemcitabine chemotherapy.

More about this trial

Cancer of the pancreas is very difficult to treat. Gemcitabine is a drug that doctors use to treat it. Although it helps some people, it does not work for everyone. 

Like all chemotherapy gemcitabine has side effects. Doctors wouldn’t want to put people through long courses of treatment with side effects if it didn’t help.

Researchers in this study looked at PET-CT scans to see if they showed early on that the chemotherapy was working. The PET-CT scan in this study used a tracer that had a radioactive substance called FLT. This is FLT PET-CT scan
Cancer cells grow faster than the normal cells around them. So they take up more radioactive substance and stand out clearly on the scan. 

The cancer wouldn’t take up so much of the tracer if the chemotherapy was slowing down the cancer growth. The researchers wanted to compare the cancer pictures. They did this before and during the course of chemotherapy to see if the treatment was helping.

The team also took blood samples to look for proteins that can show how well treatment is working. They compared the level of these proteins with the scan information before and after treatment. 

They also looked at cancer cells from a tissue sample you had removed before diagnosis. They compared these with what they found on the scan. 

The main aim of this study was to see how useful FLT PET-CT scanning was in showing whether gemcitabine chemotherapy worked in people with pancreatic cancer.

Summary of results

The team found that the FLT PET-CT scan can be used to find out if this treatment is working. 
25 people took part in this study. Everyone had gemcitabine either by itself or in combination with other chemotherapy drugs.
Of those who took part, 20 people had a FLT PET-CT scan:
  • before having chemotherapy
  • and about 3 weeks after their 1st dose of gemcitabine 
The team looked at the 2 scans and worked out how much FLT the cancer took up. 
They found that there was a significant uptake in the FLT tracer on the scans of people whose cancer had got worse. 
The team concluded that the FLT PET-CT scan did detect changes in how fast the cancer was growing. And that an early increase in the amount of FLT taken up by the cancer could predict how fast the cancer was growing. 
They also said that the FLT PET-CT scan:
  • could be used early in treatment to see if the cancer was responding to gemcitabine
  • and that it could be used to show those people whose cancer isn’t responding to gemcitabine early and might benefit from newer drug treatments. 
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

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 Healthcare NHS Trust
Medical Research Council (MRC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer


If you have questions about the trial please contact our cancer 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.

Around 1 in 5 people take part in clinical trials

3 phases of trials

Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.

Last reviewed:

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