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 trial looking at radiotherapy and chemotherapy for womb cancer (EORTC 55991)
This trial compared radiotherapy on its own with radiotherapy and chemotherapy together after surgery for womb cancer (endometrial or uterine cancer).
Doctors often treat womb cancer with surgery. Some women have radiotherapy after surgery, especially if there is a high risk that the cancer will come back. They may have a high grade or fast growing cancer, for example.
Radiotherapy to the pelvic area can help to stop the cancer coming back in that area of the body. But it won’t stop cancer coming back in another part of the body.
Doctors hoped that chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy after surgery would help stop womb cancer coming back in another part of the body.
The aim of this trial was to find out if chemotherapy and radiotherapy is better than radiotherapy alone at stopping womb cancer coming back after surgery.
Summary of results
The trial team found that chemotherapy and radiotherapy did help stop womb cancer coming back after surgery more than radiotherapy alone.
This trial recruited 378 women with stage 1, 2 or 3 womb cancer, although most people taking part had stage 1 cancer. Of the 378 women taking part,
- 191 had radiotherapy alone
- 187 had radiotherapy and chemotherapy
Most of the people in the radiotherapy and chemotherapy group (138 out of 187) had the chemotherapy drug cisplatin with either doxorubicin or epirubicin. Some had other combinations such as paclitaxel and carboplatin, for example.
The research team looked at the results 2 years after the trial finished recruiting patients. They found that for every 100 people who had radiotherapy,
- 26 had signs that their cancer had started to grow again
- 21 had died
- 18 of those 21 had died because of their cancer
They found that for every 100 people who had radiotherapy and chemotherapy,
- 19 had signs that their cancer had started to grow again
- 15 had died
- 10 of those 15 had died because of their cancer
So, fewer people died or had their cancer come back in the group that had both radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The difference in the number of people who died overall was not significant in statistical terms. But the difference in the number of people who died as a result of having cancer was.
The research team concluded that giving chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy helped to stop womb cancer coming back after surgery.
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
Prof Nick Reed
European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
Nordic Society of Gynecological Oncology (NSGO)