Breakthrough cervical cancer treatment could slash deaths by 35%

By Isabel Cameron

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images
© Getty Images

Related tags Cervical cancer Cancer Oncology Research

Scientists may have identified the biggest breakthrough in cervical cancer treatment in 20 years, giving patients existing drugs before standard radiotherapy treatment.

The study, which showed the approach reduced the risk of women dying by 35%, was hailed as ‘remarkable’ by Cancer Research UK, who financed the work.

According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer​ is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer among women globally. It is also the most frequently diagnosed in women in their early 30s, with approximately 3,200 new cases in the UK every year.

Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK and CEO of Cancer Research Horizons​, said: “Timing is everything when you're treating cancer. The simple act of adding induction chemotherapy to the start of chemoradiation treatment for cervical cancer has delivered remarkable results in this trial.

“A growing body of evidence is showing the value of additional rounds of chemotherapy before other treatments like surgery and radiotherapy in several other cancers.

"We're excited for the improvements this trial could bring to cervical cancer treatment and hope short courses of induction chemotherapy will be rapidly adopted in the clinic."

In the trial, 250 women with the disease received the treatment, a six week course of of carboplatin and paclitaxel chemotherapy, before traditional radiotherapy and chemoradiation. The other participants were only administered usual chemoradiation.

The results, which were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology congress (ESMO), revealed that after five years, 80% of those with cancer who received the new treatment were alive and 73% had not seen it spread or return.

In the standard treatment group, 72% were alive and 64% has not seen it spread or return.

Lead investigator of the trial, Dr Mary McCormack, described the findings as ‘the biggest improvement in outcome in this disease in over 20 years’.

“I’m incredibly proud of all the patients who participated in the trial; their contribution has allowed us to gather the evidence needed to improve treatment of cervical cancer patients everywhere,” she said.

According to researchers, a key benefit of the treatment is that it can be incorporated into standard-of-care treatment relatively, as the drugs required – carboplatin and paclitaxel – are cheap, accessible and already approved.

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