Our progress against cervical cancer
Research led by Dr Emma Harris and Dr Susan Lalondrelle at the ICR and The Royal Marsden has looked at pairing computerised tomography (CT) scans with ultrasound imaging to produce more detailed images that allow clinicians to better plan treatment for cervical cancers.
CT scans are used to plan where radiotherapy will be applied, but it’s tricky to get this just right with cervical cancer. Natural movements of the bladder and bowel mean that the location of the tumour can change rapidly, leading to unpleasant side effects for some women.
Combining ultrasound and CT scans is allowing clinicians to better outline positions of the uterus and makes treatment much easier to plan and administer safely.
Researchers at the ICR and The Royal Marsden are trialling new drugs in women with gynaecological cancers including cervical cancer. In 2019, scientists published results from a global clinical trial of nearly 150 patients with a variety of cancer types who had stopped responding to standard treatments, including patients with cervical cancer.
The new drug being trialled, tisotumab vedotin (or TV for short), releases a toxic substance to kill cancer cells from within, and the trial showed that over a quarter of patients with cervical tumours responded to the treatment. Professor Johann De Bono and his team led the trial, and work on the drug is ongoing.
The ICR led on research which showed that a specialist type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test could limit the extent of surgery needed in younger women with early-stage cervical cancer.
Professor Nandita deSouza and her team developed a new MRI scan that produces a greater resolution and contrast between tumour tissue and normal tissue, giving more detailed information about the extent of the disease in the cervix.
This means that some women can be spared radical hysterectomies and radiotherapy, both of which come at cost of a woman’s fertility. The scans allow clinicians to preserve more of the cervix in some women, and leave the uterus in place, meaning women can still become pregnant and deliver by caesarean section.