Imagine if one test could determine your risk of developing four of the the most aggressive female cancers. That’s what a team of researchers is working towards with a massive four-year study in Europe announced earlier this week.
Working under the leadership of the University College London, scientists from 14 countries are examining the molecular marks in cervical cells with the hope these markers can be used to predict a woman’s chance of breast, cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancer.
This would mean a single test, similar to a pap smear, would give a personalised picture of your risk of these cancers, leading to a individualised prevention and screening program.
Lead researcher Professor Martin Widschwendter told the Guardian, “At present, we can predict breast and ovarian cancers in women who carry the genetic defects BRCA 1 or 2, and those women tend to do well, but they only represent one in 10 of these cancers. What’s significant about this test is that it will identify a lot more of the other 90 per cent, and we can then recommend either intensive screening or hormonal drugs or surgery to reduce the chances of cancer developing.”
The four cancers targeted by the test, which is known as FORECEE, represent 47 per cent of all cancers in women. And while there have been great leaps forward in the treatment of breast cancer over the last few years, this success has not been mirrored in gynaecological cancers, some of which have a five-year survival rate of just 40 per cent.
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The European commission has allocated €7.9 million, with a further €1 million coming from the Eve Appeal to the research.
The development of this new test has the potential to save thousands of lives all around the world and is a great example of the new wave of weapons in the fight against cancer.
As Professor Widschwendter said, “If we can see it coming, there’s a good chance we can stop it coming.”
Gynaecological cancers have been notoriously difficult to detect up until now. Would this test have made a difference to your life or that of a friend or family member? Share your story below.