Large-Scale Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening Fails to Reduce Deaths

A large-scale UK trial of ovarian cancer screening was unable to reduce deaths from the disease, according to a study published in The Lancet.

In this study, researchers examined more than 200,000 women aged 50-74 who were randomly assigned to one of three groups: no screening, annual screening using an ultrasound scan, and annual multimodal screening involving a blood test followed by an ultrasound scan as a second line test. The population of interest were followed for an average of 16 years.

The results showed that while  multimodal testing succeeded at detecting early-stage cancer, neither screening method led to a reduction in deaths. According to researchers, the results highlight the importance of requiring evidence that screening actually reduces deaths instead of just offering early detection.

Professor Ian Jacobs, from the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), a co-investigator who has led the ovarian cancer screening research program since 1985 and who was lead investigator of UKCTOCS from 2001-2014, said via a press release: “My thanks to the thousands of women, healthcare professionals and researchers who made this trial possible. The multimodal screening strategy did succeed in detection of ovarian cancer at an earlier stage, but sadly that did not save lives. This is deeply disappointing and frustrating given the hope of all involved that we would save the lives of thousands of women who are affected by ovarian cancer each year.”


Professor Jacobs noted: “Population screening for ovarian cancer can only be supported if a test is shown to reduce deaths in a future randomised controlled trial. I remain hopeful that a new effective screening test will be found eventually, but it will take many years to conduct a large trial of the test. Realistically, this means we have to reluctantly accept that population screening for ovarian cancer is more than a decade away.”