A screening programme to provide one test for four cancers

The Eve Appeal launched a ground-breaking four year European-wide research programme in September 2015 which has been partly funded by the European Commission (Horizon 2020), and led by University College London, Women’s Cancer Department. The vision of FORECEE (4C) is to develop a screening test that aims to prevent four cancers and save significantly more women’s lives, breast, womb, ovarian and cervical.

As the only charity in the UK that works across all the gynaecological cancers and is focussed on supporting research in risk prediction, prevention and early detection, this is an incredibly important step for us. The ambition is, that by 2020, we will have developed a single risk model; one test for four cancers.

This research aims to make individualised risk predictions for cancer available to women for the first time, by looking for molecular markers in cervical cells – taken from a regular smear test – that can predict the risk of them developing any one of four cancers: breast, womb, ovarian and cervical. These cancers alone represent 47% of all cancers in women, and amongst them are cancers with a 5-year survival rate of just 40%. A staggering 516,000 new cases are diagnosed in the EU each year.

In the UK, 8 in 20 women survive a form of gynaecological cancer for more than 5 years

The unique focus of the 4C programme looks beyond just cancer genetics, and into how each woman’s body responds to environmental and lifestyle factors which can raise or decrease the risk of developing cancer. By bringing these factors together, 4C aims to develop tests that predict a woman’s individual risk of developing female cancers, and to investigate the best ways of incorporating these into large-scale and cost effective screening programmes available to whole populations.

This research project is a massive step forward for women and families who otherwise suffer the devastating consequences of poor cancer prediction. This is an exciting time for gynaecological research given the potential results the study could yield – it would improve the lives of thousands who could be at risk of developing a form of women’s cancer by detecting the risk earlier in the process.

Professor Martin Widschwendter, Head of the Department of Women's Cancer at the University College London

“Cancer prediction has become one of the most pressing issues in health care today, which is why we are delighted the European Commission is enabling this ambitious programme to take place.”

“We have seen similar strides in medical advances within cardiovascular health, where markers can indicate risk for future development of myocardial infarction or stroke. By following the same pathway for women’s cancers, we have the potential to save countless numbers of lives.”

As a result, we are very excited about the ambition of this research programme! The focus of 20th century medical research was on treatment and cures, but our ambition in the 21st century is to prevent these cancers – FORECEE can help make this a reality.