Results published from the world’s biggest ovarian cancer screening trial, which was led by University College London (UCL) and funded by The Eve Appeal, Cancer Research UK, Medical Research Council, and the Department of Health has suggested that annual blood test may help reduce the number of women dying from ovarian cancer by around 20%.
Ovarian cancer was diagnosed in 1,282 women during the 14-year study of more than 200,000 post-menopausal women aged 50 to 74, of whom 649 had died of the disease by the trial end in December 2014.
The early results suggested that approximately 15 ovarian cancer deaths could be prevented for every 10,000 women who attend a screening programme that involves annual blood tests for between seven to 11 years.
The trial also confirmed previous findings that on average, for every three women who had surgery as a result of an abnormal screen, one woman had developed ovarian cancer while two women did not.
Study author Professor Ian Jacobs, President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW Australia and Honorary Professor at UCL, said: “I am delighted that the UKCTOCS results suggest that early detection by screening may save lives. Longer follow up is needed but this brings hope against a disease for which the outlook for women is poor and has not improved much during the last three decades.”
Professor Usha Menon, UCL Women’s Health, who co-led the trial, said: “UKCTOCS has been an immense research effort spanning 14 years, over 200,000 women and 700,000 annual screens. Finally we have data, which suggests that screening may prevent ovarian cancer deaths. This is welcome news and provides fresh impetus for renewed efforts in this area.”
The four ovarian cancer charities in the UK; Ovacome, Ovarian Cancer Action, Target Ovarian Cancer and The Eve Appeal are all united in their view by commenting: “We’re very pleased to welcome the results of the UKCTOCS study, which take us a step closer to the early detection of ovarian cancer and suggest that screening may be able to save lives in the years to come.
“In the meantime, The Eve Appeal, Ovacome, Ovarian Cancer Action and Target Ovarian Cancer will continue to work to improve the outlook for women with ovarian cancer through raising awareness, investing in research, campaigning and supporting those women whose lives are affected by the disease.”
These results don’t necessarily signal the introduction of a national screening programme, but they are an exciting step forward for early detection of ovarian cancer. Medical research takes time to shift from the lab bench to the hospital bedside; today, the UKCTOCS results move early detection one step closer.