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 of the treatment of cancer of the womb (ASTEC - Radiotherapy)
This study was looking at the treatment of womb cancer. There were 2 parts to this trial. It was looking into
- Surgery to remove
- Radiotherapy after surgery
This information is about the radiotherapy part of the trial. We also have information about the surgical part of the trial.
If it is diagnosed early, womb cancer can be cured by having surgery to remove the womb. This is called a hysterectomy. But there is a risk that the cancer could come back. Depending on the stage and grade of the cancer, doctors assess this risk as low, intermediate or high. This trial was for women who were at intermediate or high risk of their cancer coming back after treatment.
The aims of this trial were to
- Find out if having external radiotherapy after a hysterectomy reduced the risk of womb cancer coming back
- Learn more about the side effects of having radiotherapy
Some of the women who took part had also taken part in the surgical part of the trial.
Summary of results
The researchers found that external beam radiotherapy did not reduce the risk of early stage womb cancer coming back after surgery.
This was a randomised trial. It recruited 905 women who had had surgery to remove womb cancer that was stage 1 or 2. All the women were considered to be at intermediate or high risk of the cancer coming back.
- Half the women had external radiotherapy after surgery
- Half had surgery alone, but were closely monitored by the trial team
Just over half the women in each of these 2 groups had internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy) at some point after their surgery. But the researchers say this doesn’t affect the results as there were the same number of these women in each group of the trial.
More than 8 out of 10 women (80%) lived for at least 5 years whether they had external radiotherapy or not. There was no significant difference between the groups.
The researchers analysed the results together with results of a similar trial that took place in Canada at the same time. When they looked at the results of both trials, they found that external radiotherapy did not help women who had surgery to remove womb cancer at intermediate or high risk of coming back, and it caused side effects. So, they came to the conclusion that it should not be part of
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.
Dr P Blake
Medical Research Council (MRC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer