Dr Irene Chong

Dr Irene Chong

With this study, we aim to repurpose the targeted drug ibrutinib to increase treatment options for patients with oesophageal cancer


What is oesophageal cancer?

Oesophageal cancer affects the food pipe and is the seventh most common type of cancer worldwide. It most commonly affects people over the age of 60 and is becoming more frequent in Caucasian men.

What is ibrutinib?

It is a targeted oral therapy that stops the signals that are used by cancer cells to divide and grow. The drug has been approved in the USA for people with relapsed mantle cell lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and Waldenström’s macroglobulinaemia, and is now being appraised in the UK by NICE.

How is this trial relevant for people with oesophageal cancer?

This proof-of-concept study will assess whether ibrutinib is successful in treating advanced oesophageal cancer. Laboratory experiments have shown that it may be effective in patients who harbour extra copies of the HER2 and c-MYC genes. We aim to repurpose ibrutinib, thereby increasing treatment options.

How will you find suitable candidates?

More than 80 people with oesophageal cancer will be screened to assess their suitability for the trial, which requires 17 participants. Through molecular analysis, we have the opportunity to select patients according to the molecular makeup of their tumours. We’ve also developed a blood test – much less invasive than a tumour biopsy – that could eventually be used to identify suitable patients.

How does our status as an NIHR Biomedical Research Centre help?

It provides the infrastructure to work seamlessly, back and forth, from laboratory discovery through to clinical trials for the benefit of our patients.