HRT safe and perhaps beneficial in women treated for ovarian cancer

28 September 2015  •  Author: Victoria White

Women with the commonest type of ovarian cancer can safely take hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and it could have a beneficial effect on their survival, a long-term clinical trial reports.


The 24-year, Phase III international trial provides the strongest evidence yet that women with epithelial ovarian cancer can safely take HRT during or after their treatment.

Several major studies have found that HRT can increase the risk of developing some cancers, which is why there has been such interest in whether it is safe to take during cancer treatment.

Set up in 1990, the new trial followed 150 women with epithelial ovarian cancer – half of whom were allocated to receive HRT during their treatment, and half of whom were not – and compared overall survival at a point in 2012, 22 years after the trial began.

Results indicate that HRT might improve overall survival in women with ovarian cancer

53 of the 75 women (71%) in the HRT arm of the trial – who were allocated to receive HRT for up to five years after the study began – had died, compared with 68 (91%) of the 75 women who had not taken HRT.

The results are relevant to a large proportion of women with ovarian cancer because ovarian cancer treatments can trigger the menopause.

The study suggests that women with ovarian cancer can receive the known benefits of HRT on the side-effects of the menopause, without it reducing their survival chances. In fact, the results indicate that HRT might improve chances for overall survival.

The trial looked at women who already had ovarian cancer. Years of research have already shown that when healthy women take HRT their risk of developing breast, ovarian and possibly womb cancer can increase.

Study clinical lead Professor Ros Eeles, Professor of Oncogenetics at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We were really happy to be able to show that HRT is safe for women with the most common type of ovarian cancer. Whether or not to have HRT is a very important decision for a large proportion of women with ovarian cancer, who will often have to undergo the menopause due to the cancer treatment at the same time as coping with a cancer diagnosis.

“Our results not only suggest HRT is safe for women with this type of ovarian cancer, but that it may actually improve their chances of long-term survival. We hope our study will inform treatment for women with ovarian cancer, and the findings could have a big impact on their quality of life.”

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