Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A study looking at screening the general population for ovarian cancer (UKCTOCS)
This study looked at whether screening tests would be useful for diagnosing ovarian cancer. It was open to women whose periods had stopped (post menopausal). This trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.
More about this trial
At the moment there is no screening programme for ovarian cancer in the general population. This is because the tests that are used in a screening programme have to be reliable and accurate. Doctors are not sure yet if the tests available at the moment are good enough to pick up ovarian cancers early.
In the UKCTOCS trial, they are comparing 2 screening tests with having no test at all. The women either have a CA 125 blood test or a transvaginal ultrasound scan, or no screening test. The women in the trial have been through the menopause.
The aim of the trial is to see if either of these tests can help doctors diagnose women with ovarian cancer when their cancer is at an early stage. If the tests work well enough it could mean that women with ovarian cancer may be diagnosed earlier, and their cancer treated more effectively.
Summary of results
The results of the very first screening tests showed that both screening tests were useful in picking up signs of ovarian cancer at an early stage. But the CA 125 blood test was slightly more reliable than the transvaginal ultrasound test. Women who had the CA 125 blood test were less likely to need to have the blood test done again. Women who had the transvaginal ultrasound scan sometimes had to have it done a second time to help doctors decide if they needed treatment or not.
More than 200,000 women were recruited. Of those
- One quarter had a blood test for the CA 125 tumour marker
- One quarter had a transvaginal ultrasound scan
- Half had no screening test, doctors call this the ‘
After an average follow up of 11 years 1,282 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer
- 338 in the CA 125 group
- 314 in the transvaginal ultrasound group
- 630 in the control group
The team compared how many women in each group had died from their ovarian cancer. They found that overall there were fewer deaths in the CA 125 group than in the control group. But it wasn’t a significant difference. The difference could still have been down to chance rather than because of screening.
The study team concluded that further follow up is needed to find out which method of screening is best.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.
Professor Ian Jacobs
Cancer Research UK
Department of Health
Medical Research Council (MRC)
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
Special Trustees of Barts and the London NHS Trust
Special Trustees of University College London Hospital
The Eve Appeal
This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/03/029.