Clinical trial leads to more extensive cervix cancer treatments

Dr. Anthony Fyles, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (Photo: UHN).

New evidence from a recent clinical trial about locally advanced cervix cancer treatments is changing clinical practice by providing women with more targeted and extensive radiation options.

From 2010-2014, the study enrolled 171 newly diagnosed women at six regional cancer centres—The Princess Margaret, Odette Sunnybrook, Juravinski, London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay.  

Half the women received a CT, which shows abnormalities or disease in the body area scanned. The other half received a CT plus a PET scan, which reveals "hot spots" of cell activity or growth that can indicate cancer.

“The addition of PET staging meant that women were two times more likely to receive more extensive radiation therapy than if they received just plain CT staging alone,” says Dr. Anthony Fyles, radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and co-principal investigator on the study.

The results, along with existing data in medical literature, was enough to convince Cancer Care Ontario and Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to provide funding for PET staging for all women with locally advanced cervix cancer.

"With PET we always learn more about disease, but does that knowledge change what we do in treating patients? In this instance it did and it's extremely gratifying to provide new evidence that changes clinical practice," says Dr. Fyles.

Locally advanced cervix cancer—about 40 to 50 per cent of all cervix cancers—is inoperable, but potentially curable with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

This research was funded by Cancer Care Ontario.