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Doctors trial the coil to prevent womb cancer

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by Cancer Research UK | News

10 June 2008

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NEW research in Yorkhill Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary is investigating whether a form of the contraceptive coil can stop women from developing womb cancer.

The Cancer Research UK funded clinical trial – named POET* – is examining whether an intra uterine system (IUS) or coil, that releases a hormone, can prevent cancer of the lining of the womb – endometrial cancer – in high-risk patients.

This particular type of coil, traditionally used for birth control, is inserted into the womb to release the hormone progestagen. One effect of this hormone is to reduce the thickness of the wall of the womb. It is this feature that scientists believe could be the key to reducing the rate of endometrial cancer in women who are at an inherited risk of the disease.

These women who have an inherited a condition called HNPCC** or Lynch syndrome, will be eligible for the trial.

Endometrial cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women in the UK, with most cases being diagnosed after the menopause. While two per cent of British women will develop endometrial cancer, the rate rises to 60 per cent for those women with HNPCC.

Scientists are now recruiting local women from around the Glasgow area aged between 35 and 65, who have HNPCC, to take part in the trial. This is part of a UK-wide trial that aims to recruit 220 women in all and will run for four years.

Each woman on the trial will undergo an examination including an ultrasound scan and biopsy of the womb. If these results are normal then the women will be randomly divided into two groups. One group will receive yearly monitoring, and the other group will receive yearly monitoring and be fitted with a coil called the Mirena IUS.

An annual ultrasound will be carried out in all the women to check for any signs of cancer and a questionnaire will be used to analyse the psychological effects of monitoring and the acceptability of the coil.

Dr Victoria Murday, local researcher at the Yorkhill Hospital, said: “We are uncertain how effective it is to screen for endometrial cancer in women at increased risk of the disease, so prevention is the key.

“Earlier research has provided evidence that Mirena IUS may reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, and we hope that this study can show that it has this effect for women at high risk, who otherwise might opt for hysterectomy.”

The research is a collaboration between Queen Mary’s University of London, St George’s University of London and Cancer Research UK.

Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials director, said: “It’s vital that we continue to research prevention techniques like the one we are trialing in this study. We need to learn if we can offer those women at high risk of womb cancer more options to help prevent the disease.”

For more information about this trial please visit either the POET website or the Cancerhelp UK website. Alternatively, call our specialist nurses on 020 7061 8355.


For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300 or, out of hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264059.