Newswise — The Cervix Cancer Research Network (CCRN) is working to facilitate clinical trials of treatments of cancer of the cervix in countries where the disease has a high burden and national research groups have not yet been established.
William Small Jr., MD, chair of the radiation oncology department of Loyola University Medical Center, served as co-chair, faculty member and speaker at a recent meeting of the CCRN in Bangkok, Thailand.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. Each year, an estimated 500,000 women develop cervical cancer and more than 270,000 die from the disease. About 85 percent of cases and 90 percent of deaths occur in developing countries, due in large part to limited access to screenings and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations. Among the various regions of the world, there is an 18-fold difference in mortality rates for cervical cancer. CCRN, a subsidiary of the Gynecologic Cancer InterGroup (chaired by Dr. Small), is a multinational consortium of physicians and scientists. The main objectives of CCRN clinical trials are to provide new therapies to regions with the greatest need and to improve cervical cancer outcomes worldwide. CCRN recently held its first international meeting in Bangkok with participants from 16 countries. The focus of the meeting was to evaluate clinical trials for the CCRN and to promote education about brachytherapy for the treatment of cervical cancer. Brachytherapy involves the placement of radioactive seeds in the tumor. Brachytherapy has been shown to improve overall survival compared with external beam radiation alone. Brachytherapy also is cost-effective and convenient for patients, and it limits radiation doses to healthy tissue. But the treatment is underused worldwide. For example, among all cervical cancer patients who are eligible for brachytherapy, 35 percent in China and 73 percent in India go untreated. Participants in the Bangkok meeting concluded that including brachytherapy and chemotherapy, and keeping treatment regimens to less than eight weeks, will have a major positive impact in treating women with cervical cancer.