Research into penile cancer

Researchers around the world are looking at the causes, diagnosis and treatment of penile cancer.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for penile 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.

Some of the trials on this page have now stopped recruiting people. It takes time before the results are available. This is because the trial team follow the patients for a period of time and collect and analyse the results. We have included this ongoing research to give examples of the type of research being carried out in penile cancer.

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

It can be more difficult to do research into rare cancers such as penile cancer because there are fewer people to take part in them. So, compared to more common cancers there are relatively few trials.

Research into treatment

Treatment for penile cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes

Researchers are trying to find out the best order of treatment for men who have penile cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes in the groin or the pelvis.

The aims of this study are to find out:

  • if having surgery after chemotherapy or after chemoradiotherapy is better than just having surgery

  • if having another operation to remove lymph nodes deeper into the pelvis is better than not having this operation

  • more about the quality of life of men with penile cancer

Surgery to remove lymph nodes for penile cancer

One of the main treatments for penile cancer is surgery. During surgery, the surgeon might remove the nearby lymph nodes.

Researchers want to compare keyhole surgery Open a glossary item with open surgery to remove lymph nodes in the groin during surgery for penile cancer. They want to find out how the 2 different surgeries affect quality of life Open a glossary item

Vaccine for penile cancer that tested positive to the human papilloma virus (HPV)

A study group are looking at a vaccine called RNA for people with cancer that tested positive to the human papilloma virus (HPV positive). HPV positive cancers can include penile cancer.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a common virus. There are different types of HPV and most don’t cause any serious problems. But some types, such as HPV16, can cause changes to cells that can develop into cancer. 

In this trial doctors are looking at a new vaccine called RNA. It has been made in the laboratory to help the immune system to recognise and attack HPV16.

The aims of the study include finding out how well the RNA vaccine works as a treatment. The team also aim to find the highest safe dose of vaccine that can be given. And learn about the side effects.

Research into immunotherapy for penile cancer that has spread

Doctors are interested in how to improve treatment for penile cancer that has spread. To do this, they are looking at an immunotherapy drug called cemiplimab.

It is a type of drug called a monoclonal antibody. It works by triggering the immune system and helping it to attack the cancer cells.

Researchers are looking at cemiplimab on its own and with chemotherapy.

Research into finding new ways to monitor patients before and after surgery

Doctors would like to find new ways to monitor people more closely to help them predict who might have a problem or complication after treatment, and whose cancers might recur.

Doctors think that substances in the body that can be measured could help do this. They are called biomarkers. Doctors are looking into whether there are biomarkers that can help them monitor people before and after treatment for penile cancer as well as several other types of cancer.

Research into living with penile cancer

Treatment teams are interested in how living with cancer affects quality of life.

Researchers are looking at the results of a survey which asked men with a conditon that affected their penis about the most important issues for them. The team want to develop a questionnaire that can measure how these issues affect their daily lives.

A study team are learning more about the challenges people face when they have prostate, testicular or penile cancer. They aim to find out how their relationships change and how couples adjust.

  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database
    Accessed March 2024

  • website
    Accessed March 2024

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer, 2023

  • European Association of Urology-American Society of Clinical Oncology Collaborative Guideline on Penile Cancer: 2023 Update
    O Brouwer and others
    European Urology, 2023, Volume 83, Issue 6, Pages 548-560


Last reviewed: 
04 Mar 2024
Next review due: 
04 Mar 2027

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