Annual ovarian cancer screening could reduce disease-related deaths by ~ 20%

An annual screening blood test could reduce ovarian cancer deaths by 20 % according to new results from the world’s largest ovarian cancer screening trial. The results of this University College London-led trial, termed UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), appeared yesterday in The Lancet.

The 14-year UKCTOCS trial involved in excess of 200,000 postmenopausal women aged 50–74 years. During the study period, 1282 of the individuals enrolled developed ovarian cancer and 649 of these women died from their disease prior to the trial ending in December of 2014.

“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,” commented trial co-lead Usha Menon of University College London Women’s Health (UK).

The study utilized the ROCA blood test (licensed to Abcodia Ltd; Cambridge, UK), which harnesses statistical calculations to evaluate fluctuating levels of CA125 over time. Such analysis allows for a potentially more accurate determination of an individual’s risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared with the alternative one-off blood test measuring a fixed cut-off point for CA125.

These results demonstrated a delayed effect on mortality between the screening and control arms, which became significant after the first 7 years of the trial. The research team are now following up the study for 3 more years to establish the full impact of ovarian cancer screening.

At this stage, the early results suggest 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 7 and 11 years.

Despite these initially promising results, the team behind the trials urge that further follow-up and analysis are required to allow for firm estimates of how many ovarian cancer deaths could be prevented by screening.

Fiona Reddington, Cancer Research UK’s head of population research, said: “This trial has been incredibly useful in improving our understanding of ovarian cancer. Detecting it early is vital to make sure that patients have the best treatment options and that more women can survive the disease. It’s uncertain whether or not screening can reduce ovarian cancer deaths overall. While this is an important step in ovarian cancer research, we would not recommend a national screening programme at this point.”

Source: University College London press release