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Thursday 16 June 2022

Southampton clinical trial targets rare and often incurable cancer

Researchers are applying an immunotherapy treatment to an often-incurable form of cancer in a new clinical trial opening in Southampton.

Immunotherapy works by helping your body’s own immune system recognise and destroy cancer cells. This approach has already become established in several other cancers.

The AURORA trial is now recruiting at University Hospital Southampton, with more sites soon to be opened.

It is being run by the Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit (SCTU).

Rare cancer type

Urinary tract squamous cell carcinoma (UTSCC) is a rare form of cancer of the urinary tract including the bladder.

There are no treatment options that are proven to extend survival in this disease. Typically, survival rates are poor, and prognosis is under a year.

The AURORA trial will study whether an immunotherapy called atezolizumab, can be effective for patients with UTSCC. The treatment blocks a protein that stops immune cells from working properly to target some cancers.

Dr Simon Crabb, Associate Professor of Medical Oncology and Chief Investigator of the AURORA trial, said:

“Because UTSCC is such a rare cancer, there are very few clinical trials conducted into the disease and therefore no current effective treatments. This means the disease is often incurable. We hope that this trial will show whether immunotherapy could provide a treatment option for patients in the future.”

Opening of trial

Professor Gareth Griffiths, Director of SCTU, is co-chair of the International Rare Cancers Initiative (IRCI) Rare Geniturinary Cancer Working Group.

He said: “It is fantastic that we are opening a trial in a rare cancer type where there have been a limited number of clinical trials to date for our cancer patients. AURORA will be conducted in the UK but if we see evidence the treatment is safe and effective, we then plan to develop future larger trials internationally across our IRCI partners.”

AURORA has received over £814,000 from Cancer Research UK. It also has further support from pharmaceutical company Roche who are providing the atezolizumab for the trial.