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Advances in gynaecological cancer research could change the treatment landscape, say researchers

Novel findings on gynaecological cancers will be revealed later this month at the ESMO Congress 2023 in Madrid

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Advances in gynaecological cancer research could change the treatment landscape, researchers have said, allowing women struggling with these cancers to live longer.

Results from highly anticipated clinical trials in gynaecological cancers with, among others, new data that cover the entire spectrum of managing patients with cervical cancer, will be presented at the ESMO Congress 2023 in Madrid, Spain.

These studies, researchers say, could change the treatment landscape for women with these cancers, delaying the time to relapse and, in some cases, lengthening survival.

“These are exciting results that address unmet needs in gynaecological cancers,” says Professor Krishnansu S. Tewari, director of the Gynecologic Oncology Programme, University of California, Irvine.

Novel findings will be revealed at the congress across the range of gynaecological cancers, including cervical, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.

Cervical cancer usually presents as locally advanced disease in women who have not undergone screening. At this stage, the cancer is too large to remove surgically, and the standard treatment is chemotherapy with radiation.

“Cervical cancer occurs in young women who are typically in the midst of their careers and have small children at home,” explains Tewari.

“Standard treatment does lead to remission, but within two to three years the cancer can come back. Two trials that will be presented at the ESMO Congress 2023 will reveal new ways of treating locally advanced cervical cancer that significantly delay relapse, giving women who are in the prime of their lives more time free of cancer.”

In one study, 68 per cent of women who received the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab on top of standard treatment were cancer-free at two years, compared to 57 per cent of women allocated to placebo on top of standard treatment.

A second study tested the impact of giving a combination of two different chemotherapy drugs ahead of standard treatment with chemotherapy plus radiation, a strategy called induction chemotherapy.

Women with locally advanced cervical cancer who received induction chemotherapy were 35 per cent more likely to be cancer-free at five years and 39 per cent more likely to be alive at five years compared to those who received standard treatment only.

Tewari says: “Induction chemotherapy could be an accessible treatment option because these drugs are available around the world, including in low-resource countries.”

Also in cervical cancer, trials will be presented showing improvements in survival and delays in relapse with new treatments for women with cancer that has spread to other parts of the body or has come back after being treated.

In ovarian cancer, achieving remission is a high unmet need, say scientists, as approximately 85 per cent of patients experience recurrent disease, with almost no long-term survival after recurrence.

At the ESMO Congress 2023, randomised trial data will be discussed showing that a novel targeted therapy, called senaparib, could delay the time to relapse in patients with newly diagnosed advanced disease.

Studies will also be presented in endometrial cancer, the most common gynaecological cancer in the US and Europe.

While there is no screening test for endometrial cancer, there is an early symptom, post-menopausal bleeding, which means that most endometrial cancers can be cured with a hysterectomy.

“Unfortunately, for the 15-20 per cent of patients that have more aggressive disease, treatment options are very limited and that’s why the studies that will be presented at the ESMO Congress are remarkable,” says Professor Tewari.

“Two trials showed that adding immunotherapy to standard chemotherapy treatment significantly delayed relapse of the cancer in women with advanced/recurrent endometrial cancer compared to chemotherapy alone.”

The researcher thinks the results that will be presented at the ESMO Congress 2023 have a very good chance of leading to regulatory approval of new treatments.

He says: “These trials have set the stage for women with gynaecological cancers to receive state-of-the-art therapies that delay the time to relapse, allowing women struggling with these cancers to live longer and live better.”

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Singapore-based fertility centre sets up grant for couples struggling to conceive

This grant aims to support eligible Singaporean couples facing financial and family planning challenges

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A Singapore-based fertility centre is to set up a grant to support couples struggling to conceive.

Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore (VFCS) announced that it would set up a grant to support aspiring parents on their IVF journey.

The initial grant is set for at $50,000 SGD and, depending on the take-up rate over the next 12 fiscal months, VFCS plans to increase the pool to benefit more couples in the subsequent years.

The grant will cover the main costs associated with IVF treatments and procedures, including embryo retrieval and transfer, laboratory services and embryo prep. It will also be applicable to fresh and frozen egg transfers.

As grant recipients, their samples will similarly be given a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, a service VFCS provides for all its patients. It locks the patient’s identity with the respective sample. The RFID identifies gametes—eggs, sperms, or embryos—at every stage of the IVF treatment.

According to VFCS, the grant will also include access to counselling services and wellness resources.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the emotional toll and occasional frustration that infertility can take on individuals and couples, especially for some who are still young and healthy,” said Dr Roland Chieng, medical director at VFCS.

“The common deterrent of going for fertility treatment is always associated with the cost, more so in a private care setting where their only source of funds is through Medisave.

“By alleviating their financial concerns, we hope ReadyBaby Fertility Grant empowers patients to approach their IVF journey, focusing on their clinical needs and working towards a healthy pregnancy and less on financials.

“With access to the necessary treatments and support, patients can embark on their path to parenthood with renewed confidence, knowing they have the clinical resources and guidance they need to navigate this journey,” he added.

Tim Kwan, VFCS’s managing director, said: “We believe every couple deserves the opportunity to experience the profound joy of parenthood.

“With the ReadyBaby Fertility Grant, we aim to support aspiring couples on their IVF journey and help them bring new life into the world.”

To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be married Singaporean couples diagnosed with medical infertility by a fertility specialist and first-time parents who have not tried IVF before.

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Canadian insurer launches partnership to support women’s health

Members of the Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross will have access to a dedicated women’s health platform

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Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving

The Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross (MBC) has partnered with the virtual health platform sanoLiving to support women on their menopause journey.

Currently, more than 10 million Canadian women are navigating menopause, often with little support and misinformation about treatments.

With sanoMidLife, sanoLiving’s online menopause platform, Medavie Blue Cross members will have access to a national women’s health platform tailored to provide care and services for women going through the menopause.

The service includes personalised assessments, access to clinicians, treatments, educational content, peer support and AI assistance.

“Many women lack support for their menopause transition due to the misunderstandings of what is ‘normal’ and misinformation about treatments,” said Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving.

“Women are seeking solutions that allow them to thrive during midlife. We are thrilled about our alliance with Medavie Blue Cross, and our shared commitment to providing access to care that empowers women.”

Anita Swamy, senior vice president operations at Medavie Blue Cross, added: “We’ve heard first-hand from our members about the need for more menopause-related services.

“Our partnership with sanoLiving creates an innovative way to increase access to care for our members as we continue to focus on the support women need to navigate their benefits and provide forward-thinking options to support their health.”

Studies report one in 10 women exit the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms. Early onset of menopause and symptoms before age 45 can elevate the risk of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis.

With this new service, Medavie Blue Cross and sanoLiving are aiming to open up the conversation around menopause, reduce stigma and work towards giving women the access to the care they need.

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US start-up raises US$2.32m to address pelvic health concerns

The Flyte intravaginal device aims to treat stress urinary incontinence and strengthen pelvic floor muscles

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The US women’s health start-up Pelvital has raised US$2.32m in funding to address “unanswered” pelvic health issues.

Minnesota-based Pelvital aims to restore pelvic health with its first product Flyte, an FDA-cleared intravaginal treatment for stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and weakened pelvic floor muscles.

The device, originally developed by physicians from the Arctic University of Norway, uses mechanotherapy, a treatment modality that when paired with an active pelvic floor contraction stimulates tissue regeneration and the creation of neuromuscular memory.

The company will use the funding to speed up the commercialisation of Flyte and raise awareness of pelvic health issues.

“Completing this round is an important step in continuing Pelvital’s unwavering dedication to provide women with innovative solutions for pelvic health, including the treatment of SUI,” said Lydia Zeller, president and CEO of Pelvital.

“This funding will play a crucial role in accelerating our commercialisation of Flyte with a strong emphasis on expanding payor coverage and enhancing clinical education and clinician awareness.”

With this final close, Zeller said, Pelvital would welcome new investors including Pier 70 Ventures, Life Science Angels, Tech Coast Angels Orange County, and Blue Pacific Fund.

Preetha Ram, managing partner at Pier 70 Ventures, would join the Pelvital board of directors.

“Joining Pelvital’s board alongside this investment round is truly an honour,” Ram shared.

“Pier 70 and I are thrilled to be part of this transformational opportunity, as Pelvital’s mission aligns beautifully with our dedication to support disruptive technologies that shake up the status quo in healthcare.

“Pelvital’s pioneering work is shaping a future where women’s health receives the attention and innovation it deserves with novel medical devices like Flyte.”

Oscar Moralez, founder and managing partner of Boomerang Ventures who led the investment round, said: “We are thrilled for the successful completion of this round as we aim to tackle the most pressing healthcare challenges.

“Our participation aims to address the chronic underfunding in women’s healthcare. Investing in Flyte, a truly groundbreaking treatment, addresses underserved pelvic health issues like SUI and contributes to raising vital awareness.”

Two published clinical trials have validated Flyte’s safety, efficacy and durability of treatment effect for women with SUI.

Most recently Pelvital published a paper in Therapeutic Advances in Urology, showing that 71 per cent of study participants achieved dry or near dry conditions as evidenced by a reduction in 24-hour pad weight after using Flyte for between two and 12 weeks.

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