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Registrar turns to research over pregnancy cancer

Friday March 13th, 2020

A Sheffield doctor is searching for new tests and treatments for a rare cancer that can affect pregnant women.

Dr Victoria Parker, speciality obstetrics and gynaecology registrar at the Weston Park Cancer Centre, Sheffield, is leading research into molar pregnancy, with the aim of improving the way in which doctors manage the condition and help to ease the mental health impact of the current diagnosis and treatment process.

She embarked on the research, enrolling into a PhD programme, after encountering a patient with the condition while working as an obstetrics and gynaecology registrar.

There are several types of Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD), which usually result in the loss of a pregnancy. However, one in ten women go on to develop the more serious Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia (GTN), which is cancerous.

One in three patients do not respond to the initial chemotherapy and may need further, more intensive treatments.

Dr Parker hopes her research will identify these patients earlier and more reliably.

“GTD can take several weeks to diagnose, while it can take months to diagnose GTN,” she said. “I aim to find a blood test which could help to confidently diagnose the condition at the time of the patient’s first ultrasound scan.

“This would allow doctors to inform patients not only if they have GTD, but also see if they are likely to develop the cancerous form and whether they will respond to initial chemotherapy treatments.”

Dr Parker is also investigating one of the largest databases in the world of GTN patients to help improve the decision-making process for giving different chemotherapy drugs. This would enable women to be counselled more effectively and given tailored treatment options.

“Even though GTN has an excellent prognosis, with a 99% cure rate, many patients find this diagnosis very isolating, having not heard of it before, and are very anxious to meet other women who can offer them support through the diagnostic, monitoring or treatment process,” she added.

Tags: Cancer | Childbirth and Pregnancy | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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