Clinical trial results may change practice for treating endometrial cancer

Adding immunotherapy improves outcomes for advanced endometrial cancer 

While outcomes for many cancers have improved over the past decades, cases and deaths from endometrial cancer have continued to rise. Endometrial cancer, which starts in the lining of the womb, is now projected to become the third most common cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer death in women by 2040, and the burden is higher and outcomes worse for Black women. 

But results from a phase 3 clinical trial offer hope of a new treatment approach that may lead to better outcomes for women with advanced or recurrent endometrial cancer. 

Gynecologic oncologists with UI Health Care were part of this important clinical trial that found that adding the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab to the standard chemotherapy treatment for advanced or recurring endometrial cancer significantly increased the time before the cancer came back (so-called progression-free survival time). In the group of patients with the best outcomes from the new treatment, the risk of disease progression or death was 70% lower with immunotherapy added to chemotherapy than with chemotherapy alone. Importantly, nearly one in four of the patients on the trial were underrepresented minorities.  

The trial results were announced at the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecological Oncology and published March 27 in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

“This is a large, practice changing study that will transform the way women with advanced endometrial cancer are treated,” says Emily Hill, MD, UI clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology – gynecologic oncology, and one of the authors on the NEJM paper. 

Hill are her colleagues on the UI gynecological cancer team are part of the large cooperative trials group, NRG, that designed and implemented the new study. The UI was one of the participating trial sites that enrolled the most patients. Through the NRG, the Gynecologic Oncology Division is continuing their research to improve care for endometrial cancer with other clinical trials, including immune therapy and other targeted agents. 

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