36,000 Victorian women join Australia's largest ever clinical trial

Friday 20 May, 2016

Now calling on women 25 to 36 years to trial new test this International Clinical Trials Day

More than 36,000 Victorian women aged 35 years and over have signed up to take part in Australia's largest ever clinical trial aimed at improving our understanding of the impact of new cancer screening technologies.

The Compass Trial conducted jointly by Victorian Cytology Service (VCS Ltd) and Cancer Council NSW, is the first trial in the world to look at cervical screening in HPV-vaccinated populations. The Trial is aiming to recruit 121,000 Australian women.

The recruitment of 36,000 Victorian women over 35 years in age is the first major milestone of the project, according to Associate Professor Marion Saville, Co-Principal Investigator and Executive Director of VCS Ltd.

"The timing of this trial couldn't be more crucial. The renewed National Cervical Screening Program is due to be implemented nationwide on May 1st, 2017. This will involve changing from 2-yearly Pap tests to 5-yearly HPV (Human Papillomavirus) tests.

"Based on overseas trials, conducted in unvaccinated women, the new screening program is expected to reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer in Australia by at least 20% compared with the current program.

"What the Compass trial is designed to do is confirm that the new HPV test is not only more effective than the traditional Pap test in detecting pre-cancer and therefore preventing cervical cancer in unvaccinated women, but also that it is more effective in younger vaccinated women."

"The new program will also reduce the number of cervical screens over a woman's lifetime from 26 to around 10 – this will mean fewer screening tests and a greater peace of mind for Australian women," Associate Professor Saville said.

CEO of Cancer Council Victoria, Todd Harper, congratulated the Victorian Cytology Service and Cancer Council New South Wales on the ground-breaking study.

"It's inspirational that so many Victorian women and health professionals are actively involved in this research and are contributing to our understanding of cancer screening. Cancer screening is the most effective way to detect cancer early and treat it – ultimately this trial will result in saving lives."

While the trial has reached its target for older women, the research team is now looking to recruit women from the younger demographic.

"There is not yet any published evidence about the performance of any available screening tests in HPV vaccinated women. This is why it is so important that more Victorian women aged 25 to 36 get involved in the trial - women who were offered HPV vaccination in the catch up part of National HPV Vaccination Program."

Cervical screening rates for young Victorian women aged between 25–29 years have been reported as declining recently. This may be attributable to a false belief among young immunised women that they do not need further screening.

"The Compass Trial provides an excellent opportunity for these women to now have early access to the new HPV screening test," said Associate Professor Saville.

Friday, 20 May 2016 is International Clinical Trials Day.

About the Compass Trial

Compass is comparing the longstanding cytology based screening approach with 5-yearly HPV tests in vaccinated and unvaccinated women. Analysis of results from the trial will provide early insights into the performance of the renewed national cervical cancer screening program.

Women currently aged over 35 years were not offered publically funded HPV vaccination, hence this group represents the unvaccinated cohort.

With over 350 clinics already participating in the Trial across metropolitan and regional Victoria, the Compass Trial research team acknowledges the dedication and support of Victorian GPs, nurse Pap test providers and gynaecologists.

It's easy for women to participate. Woman who live in Victoria aged 25 to 36 years are likely to be eligible to participate. More information can be found at http://www.compasstrial.org.au/main/for-women .