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A phase 1 trial looking at stereotactic ablative radiotherapy before surgery for pancreatic cancer (SPARC)

Full title:  SPARC: A Phase I trial of pre-operative, margin intensive, stereotactic body radiation therapy for previously untreated pancreatic cancer

Why is this trial being carried out?

Surgery to remove the cancer is the most effective treatment for early (resectable) pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer that is very close to major blood vessels is known as borderline resectable pancreatic cancer. This means it may be possible to operate to remove the cancer, but it depends on which blood vessels and the extent to which they are affected. This trial is recruiting people with borderline resectable and resectable pancreatic cancer. 

Radiotherapy damages cancer cells and kills them.  Doctors want to know if having a type of radiotherapy called stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR) before surgery will help to make surgery more effective. SABR works by accurately delivering a high dose of radiotherapy to the cancer while the surrounding tissue only receives a low dose. You may also hear SABR called stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) ®. Read more about radiotherapy.

The SPARC trial is looking at finding the highest dose of SABR that can be given without causing too many side effects. They also want to find out whether having SABR radiotherapy before surgery improves the chances of removing all the cancer.

Who is the trial suitable for?

The SPARC trial may be suitable for you if you:

  • have cancer in the head or body of the pancreas (but not the tail) which may be possible to remove with surgery – the trial team will discuss this with you
  • have satisfactory blood tests that look at your blood cell levels (blood count), how well your kidneys and liver are working, and blood sugar levels. These are done to see if you are well enough for treatment
  • are able to have  a stent inserted into your bile duct

It is not suitable for you if you have:

  • pancreatic cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced pancreatic cancer)
  • cancer in the tail of your pancreas
  • already had radiotherapy to the right side of your chest or upper abdomen (tummy area), with the liver receiving a certain amount of radiotherapy 
  • had another cancer in the last three years, unless it was at a very early stage and successfully treated
  • any other serious medical conditions that the trial team think could affect you  taking part – the trial team will discuss this with you.

There may be other reasons for not being able to take part in a trial. It is important to speak to your consultant about whether this trial might be suitable for you.

Recruitment start date: April 2015

Recruitment end date: April 2018

Information Standard

Published April 2016

Review date April 2018

  • Trial centres

    The SPARC trial is being carried out at the following hospitals:

    • Churchill Hospital, Oxford
    • Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Glasgow
    • St James’ Hospital, Leeds
    • University of Nottingham, Nottingham
    • The Freeman Hospital, Newcastle.

    Trial lead

    Professor Maria A. Hawkins

    Contact information

    You can email the SPARC trial office at the University of Oxford.

    How to join a trial

    Please speak to your consultant about whether this trial is suitable for you.

  • For more information

    If you have any questions about pancreatic cancer you can speak to one of our specialist nurses on freephone 0808 801 0707. Read more about our Support Line here.

    For further information about this trial please visit the ClinicalTrials.gov website.

    For references used to develop this information please email us.