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BACKGROUND: The dense stroma of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas is a major barrier to drug delivery. To increase the local drug diffusion gradient, high doses of chemotherapeutic agent doxorubicin can be released from thermally-sensitive liposomes (ThermoDox®) using ultrasound-mediated hyperthermia at the tumour target. PanDox is designed as a Phase 1 single centre study to investigate enhancing drug delivery to adult patients with non-operable pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas. The study compares a single cycle of either conventional doxorubicin alone or ThermoDox® with focused ultrasound-induced hyperthermia for targeted drug release. METHODS: Adults with non-resectable pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma are allocated to receive a single cycle of either doxorubicin alone (Arm A) or ThermoDox® with focused ultrasound-induced hyperthermia (Arm B), based on patient- and tumour-specific safety conditions. Participants in Arm B will undergo a general anaesthetic and pre-heating of the tumour by extra-corporal focused ultrasound (FUS). Rather than employing invasive thermometry, ultrasound parameters are derived from a patient-specific treatment planning model to reach the 41 °C target temperature for drug release. ThermoDox® is then concurrently infused with further ultrasound exposure. Tumour biopsies at the targeted site from all patients are analysed post-treatment using high performance liquid chromatography to quantify doxorubicin delivered to the tumour. The primary endpoint is defined as a statistically significant enhancement in concentration of total intra-tumoural doxorubicin, comparing samples from patients receiving liposomal drug with FUS to free drug alone. Participants are followed for 21 days post-treatment to assess secondary endpoints, including radiological assessment to measure changes in tumour activity by Positron Emission Tomography Response Criteria in Solid Tumours (PERCIST) criteria, adverse events and patient-reported symptoms. DISCUSSION: This early phase study builds on previous work targeting tumours in the liver to investigate whether enhancement of chemotherapy delivery using ultrasound-mediated hyperthermia can be translated to the stroma-dense environment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. If successful, it could herald a new approach towards managing these difficult-to-treat tumours. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT04852367 . Registered 21st April 2022. EudraCT number: 2019-003950-10 (Registered 2019) Iras Project ID: 272253 (Registered 2019) Ethics Number: 20/EE/0284.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Cancer

Publication Date





Doxorubicin, FUS, Focused ultrasound, Hyperthermia, Liposomal, Liposomes, Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, Targeted drug delivery, Therapeutic ultrasound, ThermoDox®, Adult, Humans, Tomography, X-Ray Computed, Doxorubicin, Pancreatic Neoplasms, Anthracyclines, Antibiotics, Antineoplastic, Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal, Polyketides, Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic