Uterine cancer

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Research in uterine cancer

We are always learning more about cancer. Researchers and healthcare professionals use what they learn from research studies to develop better ways to treat uterine cancer. The following is a selection of research showing promise for treating uterine cancer, especially endometrial carcinoma (the most common type of uterine cancer).

We’ve included information from the following sources. Each item has an identity number that links to a brief overview (sometimes called an abstract).

  • PubMed, US National Library of Medicine (PMID)
  • Canadian Cancer Trials and ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT)

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy

The following is noteworthy research in chemotherapy and radiation therapy for uterine cancer.

Chemoradiation is a treatment that gives chemotherapy with radiation therapy during the same time period. A phase 3 clinical trial called PORTEC-3 studied how well chemoradiation works compared to radiation therapy alone for high-risk endometrial carcinoma. Researchers found that chemoradiation improved overall survival and lowered the risk for relapse, especially for women with stage 3 cancer (The Lancet Oncology, PMID 31345626, PMID 29449189; Canadian Cancer Trials, NCT 00411138). Other studies compared chemoradiation to chemotherapy alone. They found that chemoradiation did not improve relapse-free survival for advanced disease (New England Journal of Medicine, PMID 31189035), but it did seem to improve survival for uterine serous carcinoma (International Journal of Gynecological Cancer, PMID 28005619). More research is needed to find out what role chemoradiation may have in treating uterine cancer.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is an advanced way of giving radiation therapy that shapes the radiation beams to give different doses to different parts of the treatment area. IMRT may be the best way to give radiation to the pelvis after surgery for uterine cancer. Research shows that IMRT causes fewer gastrointestinal (GI) problems (also called GI toxicity) than standard radiation therapy to the pelvis (Journal of Clinical Oncology, PMID 29989857; PLoS One, PMID 28846718). For example, IMRT given after surgery is linked to a lower rate of bowel obstruction (blocked intestine) in women with cervical and uterine cancers (Gynecologic Oncology, PMID 27486131). Research also shows that IMRT may be better than 3D conformal radiation therapy because it causes fewer GI problems (Acta Oncologica, PMID 31017032; Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, PMID 29360138).

Proton therapy uses proton beams (positively charged particles) instead of x-ray beams to treat cancer. Protons cause less damage to tissues they pass through before reaching their target. Researchers are studying proton therapy as a treatment option in a small number of women with endometrial carcinoma or cervical cancer (ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT 03184350; Radiation Oncology, PMID 29179751).

Vaginal brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy in which a radioactive implant is placed in the vagina. Research shows that vaginal brachytherapy after surgery lowers the rate of relapse of uterine cancer (Brachytherapy, PMID 27260082). Researchers are trying to find out the best dose, cylinder diameter and cylinder position for vaginal brachytherapy (Journal of Gynecologic Oncology, PMID 29027402; Journal of Contemporary Brachytherapy, PMID 28725246). They are also trying to find out if combining vaginal brachytherapy with chemotherapy is an effective treatment for uterine cancer (Journal of Clinical Oncology, PMID 30995174).

Find out more about research in chemotherapy and research in radiation therapy.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on cancer cells or inside them. These molecules help send signals that tell cells to grow or divide. By targeting these molecules, the drugs stop the growth and spread of cancer cells and limit harm to normal cells.

Researchers are studying different targeted therapy drugs to see how well they work to treat uterine cancer, especially when it has spread to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic uterine cancer). Some of the targeted therapy drugs that researchers are studying include:

Find out more about research in targeted therapy.


Immunotherapy helps strengthen or restore the immune system’s ability to find and destroy cancer cells. Researchers are looking at a type of immunotherapy called an immune checkpoint inhibitor. The immune system normally stops itself from attacking normal cells in the body by using specific proteins called checkpoints, which are made by some immune system cells. Cancer cells sometimes use these checkpoints to avoid being attacked by the immune system. Immune checkpoint inhibitors block the checkpoint proteins so immune system cells (called T cells) can attack and kill the cancer cells.

Researchers are studying the immune checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda) to see if it can improve survival in women with advanced endometrial carcinoma (Canadian Cancer Trials, NCT 03517449).

Find out more about research in immunotherapy.

Learn more about cancer research

Researchers continue to try to find out more about cancer. Clinical trials are research studies that test new ways to treat cancer. They also look at ways to prevent, find and manage cancer.

Clinical trials provide information about the safety and effectiveness of new approaches to see if they should become widely available. Most of the standard treatments for cancer were first shown to be effective through clinical trials.

Find out more about cancer research and clinical trials.


The percentage of people with a disease who are alive at some point in time after their diagnosis.

Survival statistics for cancer are often given as 5-year survival. This statistic indicates the percentage of people with a particular disease who are alive 5 years after diagnosis. They may be disease-free, in remission or still having treatment.


The return of signs and symptoms of a disease (such as cancer) after a period of time when there was improvement or complete recovery.

gastrointestinal (GI)

Referring to or having to do with the digestive organs.

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or digestive tract, includes the mouth, pharynx (throat), esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.

radioactive implant

A small container (such as needles, catheters, wires or seeds) that holds a radioactive source and is placed in or near a tumour during brachytherapy.


Photo of Claude Perreault Dr Perreault identified new molecules that may help make immunotherapies work for more people.

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The latest Canadian Cancer Statistics report shows about half of Canadians are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

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