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Groundbreaking cancer trial

Poole Hospital is one of a handful of NHS facilities offering clinical trials to patients which may lead to the development of a groundbreaking new drug.

The Cancer Research UK-led study is aiming to discover if a new drug can stop a patient’s immune system from protecting tumours.

The trial, in partnership with Amgen Inc., will use an experimental cancer drug , called AMG319, to find out if it removes the defence shield that hides cancer cells from the immune system. It targets a protein called PI3K delta leading to destruction of the cancer cells when tested in the laboratory.

The phase II trial, taking place at Poole Hospital, Southampton General Hospital, and the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre/Aintree University Hospital, looks at the effects of giving this drug to patients with a type of head and neck cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), to determine whether it affects their immune response.

Around 54 patients with HPV-negative* HNSCC of the lower and upper parts of the throat (hypopharynx and oropharynx) or mouth will take part in the study. Patients will be randomly assigned to receive either AMG319 or a placebo, during the regular break from treatment to avoid disruption to a patient’s care.

Dr Emma King, consultant head and neck surgeon and clinical lead for head and neck cancers at Poole Hospital, said: “I am really pleased that this trial gives our head and neck cancer patients an opportunity to get this new drug.”

Patient Steve Lewis, who was among the first to sign up to take part in the trial, said deciding to take part was easy and is encouraging others to do the same. Steve (pictured below, right) and Dr King were interviewed by BBC South's Edward Sault about the trial. Watch the BBC South broadcast here (opens in new window).

Patient Steve Lewis and Edward Sault BBC South

"As a patient with cancer, you have nothing to lose," said Steve.

"If people don't volunteer for these trials how are we going to move forward with a cure for cancer?

"The research nurses at Poole Hospital are absolutely incredible."

"Taking part can only help - if not you, then others."

Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK’s director of drug development, said: “We’re delighted to be moving into phase II trials. It means we’re getting closer to providing a new treatment for cancer patients.

“Teaching the body’s immune system to fight cancer is a promising area of cancer research and we’re excited to see how this drug may help.”

Notes to editors:

*Some types of head and neck cancer are caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) but most are not. This study is including only people whose cancer has not been caused by the virus – those who are HPV negative.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit

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