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The Anticancer Fund supports EORTC trial in retroperitoneal sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer


The Anticancer Fund supports EORTC trial in retroperitoneal sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer

Brussels – The Anticancer Fund announces its significant financial contribution to a trial in high risk retroperitoneal sarcoma, an aggressive and rare cancer affecting the soft tissues of the body. The study will be conducted by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC).

The Anticancer Fund is supporting a randomised phase III study of chemotherapy followed by surgery versus surgery alone for patients with high-risk retroperitoneal sarcoma. With a total study cost for the EORTC of approximatively €2.9M, of which €1.4M is already secured, the Anticancer Fund agreed to provide €700,000.

Retroperitoneal sarcoma is a very rare tumour, occurring in 0.5 to 1.0 per 100,000 of the population. Diagnosis and treatment are challenging. The standard of care consists currently of surgery. Overall survival at 5 years following surgery is between 60 and 70%. Histologic subtypes, like high grade dedifferentiated liposarcoma and leiomyosarcoma, originating from the retroperitoneum have a dismal prognosis with a risk of death above 70% at 5 years. The role of systemic therapy before or after surgery remains unproven and the policies of their use vary broadly among different institutions.

First collaboration with EORTC

The Anticancer Fund is enthusiastic about this very first collaboration with the EORTC, an internationally renowned cancer research organisation. We launched a request for application in 2019 to support clinical trials aiming at reducing recurrence rate for cancer patients treated with curative intent. The EORTC STRASS II-trial met all the criteria and was selected.

By funding this study we will contribute to an international randomised clinical trial in a cancer with a significant unmet need. ‘The allocation of research funds to areas with limited interest from the profit-driven cancer industry is essential to complement progress. With the EORTC we have the leading organisation in clinical research in Europe that works together with industry but also tries to address other patient-centred needs in a non-profit way. Especially these initiatives need encouragement’, explained Lydie Meheus, Managing Director of the Anticancer Fund.

The Anticancer Fund has been in regular contact with the EORTC and in 2019, both organisations endorsed each other’s manifesto, launched for the European Elections. ‘We are very pleased to partner with a like-minded organisation like the Anticancer Fund in addressing such an important question for patients with high-risk retroperitoneal sarcoma. For the EORTC, this marks the beginning of a successful partnership in tackling patient-centred questions where there is no industry involvement’, said Dr. Denis Lacombe, Director General of the EORTC.

Belgian entrepreneur Filip Balcaen, a major donor of the Anticancer Fund, encourages the enhanced collaboration between the Anticancer Fund and EORTC and describes it as a true milestone. ‘I’m convinced that organisations should join forces to achieve major breakthroughs in the fight against cancer’, he mentioned.

A pan-European study 

EORTC’s STRASS II study is the first official trial looking into potential benefits of chemotherapy before surgery to improve disease control and survival in patients with retroperitoneal sarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer with a low survival rate. STRASS II is a pan-European study (13 countries) with a transatlantic collaboration with multiple specialised sarcoma centres in Australia, Canada and North America. This collaboration recently completed inclusion of the first randomised controlled trial in retroperitoneal sarcoma ever, the STRASS trial examining the role of pre-operative radiotherapy in these tumours.

In contrast to many other cancer types, an official trial looking into potential benefits of chemotherapy before surgery in these tumours has never been performed. 250 patients will be recruited over a period of 5.5 years. Additional follow-up of 1.5 years is expected to provide the targeted number of events for analysis. The study is coordinated by Dr. Alessandro Gronchi (Milan) and Dr. Winan van Houdt (Amsterdam).

On the study’s importance, Dr Winan van Houdt said: ‘STRASS II is a breakthrough for a rare but devastating disease. It also emphasises the importance of multinational collaborations in fighting rare cancers.

More details about the clinical trials we support

About the EORTC

The European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) brings together European cancer clinical research experts from all disciplines for trans-national collaboration. Both multinational and multidisciplinary, the EORTC network comprises more than 5,000 collaborators from all disciplines involved in cancer treatment and research in more than 1,600 hospitals and institutions in 50 countries. Through translational and clinical research, the EORTC offers an integrated approach to drug development, drug evaluation programmes and medical practices.

EORTC Headquarters, a unique pan European clinical research infrastructure, is based in Brussels, Belgium, from where its various activities are coordinated and run.