PROTECTOR is a research study for women who are at an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer either because they carry a faulty gene (e.g. BRCA1, BRCA2, RAD51C, RAD51D or BRIP1) or because of their strong family history of cancer. PROTECTOR aims to assess the impact on women of a new two-step surgery to prevent ovarian cancer.This involves initially just having your fallopian tubes (or ‘tubes’) removed to prevent ovarian cancer. This is followed by the removal of ovaries in a second operation at a later date of their choosing or once they have reached menopause naturally.
The study assesses women’s views and the impact of this two-step surgery to prevent ovarian cancer on sexual function, hormone levels, quality of life and overall satisfaction. Outcomes from this new approach are compared to the traditional approach of removal of both tubes and ovaries in the same operation. This is also compared to the well-being of women who do not have surgery.
Women are able to choose which arm of the study they wish to take part in: single operation removing both tubes and ovaries, two-step surgery, or having no surgery (the control option).
The standard operation to prevent ovarian cancer involves removal of tubes and ovaries. However, removal of ovaries at a young age can lead to early menopause. Early menopause is associated with side effects like hot flushes, sweats, mood changes, thinning of the bones, memory problems and a higher risk of heart disease. It may also reduce libido and impair sexual function. Taking hormone replacement therapy can minimise these side effects. A number of women choose to decline or delay this operation to avoid the potential symptoms, problems of early menopause or to protect their fertility.
Current research points towards these cancers beginning in the Fallopian Tube and not in the ovary itself. This is where PROTECTOR comes in, with the theory being that removing the tube alone will prevent a number of cancers while avoiding problems of early menopause.
The study team is led by Prof Ranjit Manchanda, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts CRUK centre, London. There are 29 centres across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which are recruiting participants to PROTECTOR. We aim to recruit 1,000 participants in total (333 in each study arm). More details are available on the PROTECTOR website.
If you would like to take part, please ask your GP to refer you to your nearest recruitment centre which can be found using the interactive map found on the website.
Alternatively, you can email a member of the PROTECTOR team on bci-protector.@qmul.ac.uk for further details on how to take part.