Study into Cervical Cancer Changes During Radiotherapy

Sophie Otter is working towards an MD at University of Surrey, supported by GRACE. Working with Clinical Oncologist Alex Stewart, Sophie is researching how to improve the accuracy of cervical cancer treatment. Here she explains more...


Cervical cancer is the second commonest cancer worldwide in women. It is often locally advanced at the time of diagnosis and these patients are usually treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy combined. However, at 5 years, less than 40% of women with stage III cancer will be alive. It is therefore important to improve the treatment of these patients.

GRACE has funded my research as part of my MD at the University of Surrey into cervical cancer. So far, I have completed projects that have assessed the use of bladder scanning during radiotherapy for cervical cancer and whether we can reduce the amount of normal tissue in the radiotherapy field. I have also devised a training programme for the radiographers in our department to allow the implementation of daily image guided radiotherapy which will ensure we are treating patients with even more accuracy.

In addition, I have a clinical trial which allows additional biopsies to be taken from patients before and during radiotherapy.  We are particularly interested in the immune system and how cervical cancer manages to avoid being eradicated by the immune system. Specifically, we are looking at the abundance and type of immune cells in the biopsy specimens and whether this changes over the course of treatment.

We have now recruited 4 of our target 8 patients. We hope that this work may lead in the future to additional drugs being used in combination with radiotherapy to activate the immune system to fight the cervical cancer cells. These drugs are already being used in other cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer (e.g. nivolumab and ipilimumab) and hopefully one day will be shown to be effective in cervical cancers too.