Research into anal cancer

Researchers are looking at screening and treatment for anal cancer.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for anal cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments must be fully researched before they can be used for everyone. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available
  • they are safe

Research into screening

Routine screening for anal cancer is not available at the moment. But doctors have been looking at how we can screen for anal cancer in people who are at higher risk of developing this cancer type.

One high risk group is men who have sex with other men. They are at higher risk of getting anal HPV, which increases their risk of anal cancer. Researchers looked at the possibility of screening for anal cancer in this high risk group. They wanted to see if people found this type of screening acceptable, and find out how well it worked.

In the study, the men had tests to look for abnormal cells and test for HPV. The study team found that screening is possible and acceptable with this group.

Research into treatment


Having chemotherapy and radiotherapy together (chemoradiotherapy) is a common treatment for anal cancer.

Researchers are looking at different doses of chemoradiotherapy. They want to find out if:

  • a higher dose of chemoradiotherapy reduces the risk of cancer coming back for people with locally advanced cancers
  • a lower dose of chemoradiotherapy works as well as the standard dose at curing anal cancer that hasn’t spread 
  • a lower dose of chemoradiotherapy or regular check ups stop early anal cancers coming back after surgery


Researchers have been looking at different chemotherapy drugs for people with anal cancer that has spread or come back after treatment. They are comparing the drugs cisplatin and fluorouracil (5FU) with the drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel. They want to find out which combination works best and which has fewest side effects. 

Vaccine treatment

Doctors are looking at treating anal cancer with a vaccine called RNA. The vaccine is for people with anal cancer that has come back after treatment and who have tested positive to the Human Papilloma virus (HPV).

The vaccine has been made in the laboratory to help the immune system to recognise and attack a type of HPV called HPV16. The researchers want to find out more about the dose and side effects of the vaccine, and how well it works.

Research into side effects

Radiotherapy and the combination of chemotherapy with radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy ) can have side effects. Researchers are looking at ways to report side effects of treatment using an online system. They want to find out how useful these online systems are. They want to see if there are benefits to using this system compared with the care people would usually receive.