Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial of buparlisib with paclitaxel for head and neck cancer that has come back or spread to another part of the body (BERIL-1)
This trial looked at buparlisib for squamous cell cancer of the head and neck. This included people with cancer that had started in the mouth, the throat or the voice box (larynx).
It was open for people to join between 2013 and 2015, and the research team published results in 2017.
More about this trial
Doctors usually treat squamous cell head and neck cancer with surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Or a combination of these.
In this phase 2 trial, researchers looked at the combination of buparlisib (BKM120) and paclitaxel. They wanted to see if it can help people whose cancer has started to grow again, or has spread to another part of the body.
The main aim of this trial was to see if paclitaxel and buparlisib works better than paclitaxel alone for head and neck cancer.
Summary of results
The research team found that the combination of paclitaxel and buparlisib did work better than paclitaxel alone, for head and neck cancer.
About this trial
The people who took part in this trial had head and neck cancer, such as cancer of the:
Everyone taking part had already had chemotherapy. But their cancer had come back or spread to another part of the body.
The 158 people who joined the trial were put into 1 of 2 treatment groups at random:
- 79 people had paclitaxel chemotherapy and buparlisib tablets
- 79 people had paclitaxel chemotherapy and dummy (placebo) tablets
The research team looked at how long it was before people’s cancer started to grow. They call this progression free survival. They found it was:
- 4.6 months for those who had buparlisib
- 3.5 months for those who had placebo
The team looked at how well the treatment worked. They found that the cancer had got smaller or gone away in:
- 31 people who’d had buparlisib
- 11 people who’d had placebo
In 2016 they looked at how many people had died, and found it was:
- 53 people who’d had buparlisib
- 60 people who’d had placebo
Most people who took part had at least 1 side effect. But some were mild or short lived. Just over 8 out 10 people (82%) who had buparlisib and just over 7 out of 10 people (72%) who had the placebo, had more severe side effects.
Some side effects were more common in the buparlisib group, including:
- increased blood sugar level (hyperglycaemia)
- a drop in red blood cells and white blood cells
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
More people in the buparlisib group had a reduced dose of chemotherapy, or waited longer between chemotherapy treatments, because of side effects. And a few people in each group decided to stop treatment because of the side effects they were having.
Quality of Life
The people taking part filled out regular questionnaires which asked them how they were feeling and about any side effects they were having. These are called quality of life questionnaires. The results showed that there wasn’t much difference between the 2 groups.
The trial team concluded that the combination of paclitaxel and buparlisib was a useful treatment for head and neck cancer that had come back or spread to another part of the body. And that people were able to cope with the side effects.
They suggest that this combination is looked at further in a larger phase 3 trial.
Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Martin Forster
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer