London, England, September 17, 2012 – There have been reports in the media this week of recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that screening healthy asymptomatic women for ovarian cancer can do more harm than good.
To date no ovarian cancer screening strategy has been shown to save lives however the efficacy of ovarian cancer screening is being investigated in the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), co-ordinated by UCL Women’s Cancer Department. The trial aims to answer the question as to whether there should be a national screening programme for ovarian cancer. The UKCTOCS trial is the largest trial of its kind ever run to investigate ovarian cancer, involving over 200,000 low risk postmenopausal women. This trial reports in 2015 but interim results in 2009 were encouraging.
Prof Usha Menon, Head of the Gynaecology Cancer Research Centre at UCL comments “There are still a few years to go before we have firm evidence as to whether or not screening is able to detect cancer early enough to save lives. It will also be essential to balance any benefits offered by screening with the downside, as it is recognised that screening can cause anxiety and lead to some unnecessary surgery.”
Meanwhile The Eve Appeal has committed £1.65 million to an innovative new research programme – PROMISE 2016 which stands for ‘Predicting Risk of Ovarian Malignancy, improving Screening and Early detection’.
This collaborative and large scale project draws on the expertise at our core research unit at University College London, working shoulder-to-shoulder with leading research scientists at other renowned UK and international institutions.
The project seeks to improve outcomes by:
- Identifying at-risk populations and developing a model for predicting a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer
- Developing a model for earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer
Currently there is no ovarian cancer screening programme available to the NHS and the majority of women are diagnosed at a later stage – too late for treatment. However, if we can identify those most at risk of the disease, and monitor them with improved diagnostic methods, more cancers will be caught earlier and we will save lives.