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Ovarian cancer prevention trial gives patients more control


A woman from Leicestershire has joined a clinical trial at Leicester’s Hospitals to help prevent ovarian cancer in people at high risk of developing the disease.

Ovarian cancer is when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way. They eventually form a growth (tumour). If not caught early, cancer cells gradually grow into the surrounding tissues, and may spread to other areas of the body. Women who carry a variant in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and have a family history of ovarian cancer are much more likely to develop ovarian cancer themselves. Therefore, many choose to take preventative action, by having their Fallopian tubes and ovaries removed before any symptoms develop. However, this can result in early menopause.   

The trial, called PROTECTOR, aims to assess the impact of a new two-step option to prevent ovarian cancer in patients. Those consenting to the study have their Fallopian tubes – the tubes between the ovaries and the womb – removed. This is done because it is believed that most ovarian cancer originates in the Fallopian tubes. The ovaries are left intact, meaning that patients do not experience menopause immediately. At a later date of the patient's choice, this is followed by the removal of their ovaries. Outcomes from this new approach will be compared to the traditional approach of removing both the Fallopian tubes and ovaries in the same operation.   

Fawn (34) decided to take part after finding out she carried the BRCA1 gene variant that puts her at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer in the future.     

She said: “Participating in the trial means that I've had my Fallopian tubes removed and I'll be monitored until I am ready then to have both ovaries removed. It's been comforting knowing that people are looking out for me. 

“On top of the benefits to my health, I now have a support system. Being able to talk to the other participants who are going through similar experiences can be comforting."  

Mr Supratik Chattopadhyay, who is a consultant gynaecological oncology surgeon at Leicester’s Hospitals, is the study’s principal investigator. He said: “We really appreciate that patients are willing to get involved in research. As a Trust it is vital that we empower patients and give them the opportunities. The PROTECTOR study allows us to offer them alternatives to standard care treatment, which gives the patients more options.”   

Prof Ranjit Manchanda, Chief investigator of the study, consultant gynae oncologist at Barts Health and Professor at Queen Mary University of London says, “this is a critically important study offering a novel ovarian cancer prevention strategy to high-risk women across the UK. It provides a level of ovarian cancer risk reduction while allowing women to maintain hormonal function. We are delighted to work with Mr Chattopadhyay and colleagues in delivery of the study."  

The project is funded by Barts Charity and The Rosetrees Trust. It is supported by a number patient groups and charities and the NCRI Gynaecological Cancer Group. The study has been reviewed by the London Bloomsbury Research Ethics Committee, the Health Research Authority and the Joint Research Management Office of Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health.   

If you are interested in taking part or would like further information, contact the study team by visiting the PROTECTOR website


Avni Lalji, research and innovation communications officer, researchcomm@uhl-tr.nhs.uk.