The trial of a drug aimed at treating advanced oesophageal cancer could lead to a new approach for one group of patients.
Aberdeen University has been involved in a UK-wide study to see if gefitinib could help treat the disease, which is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in the world.
It is already used in the treatment of lung cancer, but this is the first study using it to treat the advanced stages of the disease in the oesophagus.
Researchers recruited 450 patients from around the UK to take part in the study. All have oesophogeal cancer and had undergone chemotherapy.
Half were given the drug, while the other half were given a placebo.
Dr Russell Petty, clinical senior lecturer and the university and honorary consultant in medical oncology with NHS Grampian, said: “It became apparent very quickly that some patients were responding dramatically to treatment.
“Within a month or two they were in less pain, they were eating better, they had put on weight and were back to their normal lives.
As the drug only helped a small sub-group of patients, Dr Petty does not believe it should be offered to all oesophogeal cancer patients.
However, the researchers are now working on a test to identify those who will benefit from the treatment.