Our work into women’s cancers not only looks at causes and cures for gynaecological cancers but also ways of improving the lives of women living with cancer.
In Western Australian we have a single Gynaecologic Cancer Service providing care to over 96 percent of all women’s gynaecological cancers diagnosed in the State, throughout metropolitan, regional and remote areas. This makes the Service a rich source of data for cancer research projects. Our clinical Service is known to be excellent and we are now building a strong research base to make it even better.
Our Gynaecologic Cancer Research Centre, based at King Edward Memorial Hospital and St John of God Subiaco Hospital, began in 2012 to build on the clinical strengths of the state-wide service and amplify the quality of care by answering research questions of particular importance to the women and families of Western Australia.
The Western Australian Gynaecologic Cancer Research Initiative commenced in 2013 to bring clinical practice and research together to improve outcomes for women with a gynaecologic cancer in Western Australia.
One example of how we are making a real impact is through our work into endometrial cancer. For early stage endometrial cancer sufferers who choose laparoscopic hysterectomy over open surgery, our research has shown:
- improved quality of life at 6 months after surgery
- reduced treatment-related morbidity
- shorter hospital stays
- less postoperative pain
- less pelvic floor symptoms.
Another project with the potential for transformative change is the WA Gynaecologic Oncology Biospecimen Bank (Biobank). The Biobank continues to boost research into the causes of gynaecological cancers, their genetic pathways and potential cures.
- 1,404 women die (27 every week) from cancer of the ovary, uterus or cervix.
- Endometrial cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer and is diagnosed in 2400 Australian women each year.
- Over 1600 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in Australia.
- It is the leading cause of gynaecologic cancer-related deaths in Australia, accounting for 4.8% of all cancer deaths in women
- The median age for patients with ovarian cancer is 60 years but it can occur at any age
- The average lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is about 1 in 75
- The majority of cases are sporadic with inherited forms of malignancy occurring in about 15% of cases
- Women with inherited gene faults have a much higher lifetime ovarian cancer risk of up to 50%
- Over two-thirds of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed when the disease has already spread and is incurable
- There are currently no effective screening tests for ovarian cancer
- 57% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will not be living 5 years after their diagnosis.
WA women with endometrial cancer are taking part in a WIRF trial of a treatment that hopes to delay the need for radical surgery.
The standard treatment is a total hysterectomy as well as removing ovaries and fallopian tubes. But some patients have medical conditions that makes surgery risky at the time of diagnosis, or younger women may want to postpone surgery until they have had children.
Professor of Gynaecologic Oncology, Prof Yee Leung said an alternative treatment could safely allow women to delay surgery with-out jeopardising their cancer outcome.
“This treatment can act as a bridge, to get patients to the point where they have achieved a pregnancy or optimised their medical condition,” he said.