Fewer Scientists Study Women’s Cancers – WHY?

The crisis in gynecological cancer research …

(SUSAN GUBAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES) As an ovarian cancer patient whose life is being extended by a clinical trial, I was delighted to learn this summer that research on gynecological cancers is undergoing an unusually productive period.

Clinical trials designed for gynecologic cancers declined 90 percent from 2011 to 2016. PHOTO: NIH-NCATS, CC

But I’m dismayed that at the same time there has been a steep decline in clinical trials available in the field.

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For decades, the complexity of cervical, ovarian, endometrial and vulvar cancers stymied researchers; however, several advances have begun to extend women’s lives.

The addition of new chemotherapy regimens and newly effective targeted drugs, like the PARP inhibitor I have been taking for five years to keep my cancer in check, are lengthening survival rates. (All resulted from clinical trials.)

Ironically, too, in potentially lucrative areas of cancer research, there are too many clinical drug trials, and not enough patients.

While medical scientists are discovering the determinants that drive gynecologic tumor growth, clinical trials in gynecological cancer — translating that knowledge into specific strategies — dwindle. According to the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, enrollment in phase 3 National Cancer Institute clinical trials designed for gynecologic cancers declined 90 percent from 2011 to 2016.

In July, at the Ovarian Cancer National Conference in Chicago, a succession of experts expressed alarm about this: Dr. John Moroney from the University of Chicago, Dr. Carol L. Brown from Memorial Sloan Kettering, Dr. David Gershenson from MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Daniela Matei from Northwestern University, and Dr. Alan D’Andrea from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Why has the number of trials plummeted? The drop, the experts at the conference said, was probably caused by the 2012 restructuring of cooperative groups sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, placing gynecological, surgical and radiation therapy under the same umbrella, and also by significant budget reductions of the National Institutes of Health. READ THE FULL STORY AT THE NEW YORK TIMES.