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Research leads to increased options for cancer treatment

March 9, 2016

In my previous post I shared how we have learned so much about endometrial cancer by analyzing the molecular features of the tumours.

Recently, we have been really excited in showing that these molecular features can be determined on endometrial samples, and do not require analysis of the whole uterine specimen, such as from a hysterectomy. 

Most women diagnosed with endometrial cancer have some sort of spotting or irregular bleeding alerting them that something is wrong. Then in their doctor’s office, or in a simple surgical procedure, a sample of the endometrial lining is obtained.

This sample is relatively abundant, allowing for an in depth analysis. Imagine knowing from the time of first diagnosis what the ‘character’ of your cancer is with a high degree of accuracy. You and your medical team could:

  • Plan the most appropriate surgery to be performed.
  • Plan additional therapy (if any).
  • Predict a follow-up schedule, such as close surveillance at three months versus yearly.
  • Prompt additional referrals such as to the hereditary cancer program if a familial, or inherited condition is suspected. 

In the case of young women who may be diagnosed with endometrial cancer, but may wish to have children; information from the molecular analysis of the endometrial biopsy can suggest whether or not it is safe to delay hysterectomy and treat by other methods, such as hormonal, allowing a ‘window’ to have a baby.

We will publish this work in the next few months and then begin to study how having this information from the time of first diagnosis could alter the care of women with this disease across Canada.

We are excited with how far we have come in a few short years, and excited by the work emerging from other centres, as we all work together to improve the situation for women with this very common disease! 

Thank you to patients and family members for donating tissue to our tumour bank, and to the community for supporting this work. I look forward to continuing to share the advances from our BC Cancer Agency team.