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Dr Dearbhaile Collins

Clinical Director of Cancer Services & Consultant Medical Oncologist

Dr Ciarán Ó Riain

Consultant Histopathologist & Lead Surgical Pathologist Gynaecological Oncology Multidisciplinary Team

Uterine cancer awareness month brings about the perfect time to report on advancements in medical knowledge, including those in molecular testing, immunohistochemistry and immunotherapy.


Approximately 3.1% of women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer at some point during their lifetime. In the past decade, uterine cancer diagnosis and treatment have evolved significantly. Advances in diagnostic testing, as well as new applications of immunotherapy, are leading to more tailored and precise treatment options for women with uterine cancer.

Immunotherapy for uterine cancer

Immunotherapy is an emerging area of research in uterine cancer treatment. Immunotherapy takes advantage of a person’s immune system to help kill cancer cells. It provides hope for people with inoperable tumours.

According to Dr Dearbhaile Collins, Clinical Director of Cancer Services and Consultant Medical Oncologist: “Uterine cancer can be broken down into types depending on the molecular characteristics of the cancer itself. When we look at advanced or metastatic uterine cancer, we now know that some are more susceptible to immunotherapy.

“Immune checkpoint inhibitors help to modulate the immune response to cancer. Cancer cells can produce signals that make the immune system ignore them. Immune checkpoint inhibitors reverse this ability to hide, which increases the immune response to cancer.”

Uterine cancer rates are rising, but innovations are improving patient outcomes.

Dr Ciarán Ó Riain

Molecular testing and immunohistochemistry

Dr Ciarán Ó Riain, Consultant Histopathologist, discusses exciting advancements due to molecular testing and immunohistochemistry. “About 10 years ago, when we received a biopsy with uterine cancer, we looked at one slide on a microscope to make treatment decisions. Now, we have seven extra immunohistochemistry slides, giving more information on the molecular sub-group, which helps to determine individual prognosis and treatment.”

Emerging molecular tests can identify mutations in the POLE gene. “This particular group of uterine cancers may look aggressive under the microscope, but the presence of a POLE mutation is actually associated with excellent prognosis, and women may be spared unnecessary extra treatment. When clinical trial data is announced, this molecular test will need a quick implementation into clinical practice,” he adds. Uterine cancer rates are rising, but innovations are improving patient outcomes.

Specialists advancing gynaecological cancer care

The Irish Society for Gynaecological Oncology (ISGO) encompasses a multidisciplinary team including, oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, nurses, radiologists, psychotherapists, geneticists, researchers and patient advocates. Dr Collins and Dr Ó Riain, both ISGO members, highlight the breadth of specialist involvement to improve clinical outcomes for women with — and at risk of — gynaecological cancers.

ISGO promotes education, training, research and development in all areas of cancer care from prevention to diagnosis, treatment, survivorship and palliation. Now, they are championing new treatment options to become the standard of care for women impacted by gynaecological cancer.

thisisGO.ie provides an online personalised resource for anyone who has been impacted by gynaecological cancer.

June is uterine cancer awareness month, organised by the International Gynecologic Cancer Society (IGCS) and their advocacy arm IGCAN and supported by ISGO and the Irish Network of Gynaecological Oncology. IGCS will hold their global meeting and an advocacy summit in Ireland in October. Visit igcs.org

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