Cancer Types | Uterine Cancer - National Foundation for Cancer Research

Uterine Cancer

Uterine Cancer

Uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, is the fourth most common cancer for women and the most commonly diagnosed gynecologic cancer in the United States.

Key Facts

  • An estimated  66,570 new cases of uterine cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in  2021, with around  12,940 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis.
  • The incidence of uterine cancer is rising, mainly due to a rise in obesity, which is a key risk factor for this disease.
  • Affecting mainly post-menopausal women, the average age of women diagnosed with uterine cancer is 60 years old.
  • The overall five-year survival rate for uterine cancer is 84%.
  • This cancer is slightly more common in Caucasian women, but African American women are more likely to die from it.
  • Today, there are more than 600,000 uterine cancer survivors in the U.S.
Sources: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2021 and American Society of Clinical Oncology (Cancer.Net)

Signs and Symptoms

A symptom is a change in the body that a person can see and/or feel. A sign is a change that the doctor sees during an examination or on a laboratory test result. If you have any of the symptoms below, it does not mean you have cancer but you should see your doctor or health care professional so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

  • Vaginal bleeding after menopause
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Pelvic pain, unexplained weight loss
Source: American Cancer Society’s website 2021
Peach Uterine Cancer Ribbon
new cases expected in 2021
% five-year survival rate
survivors in the U.S.

Uterine Cancer Research

In addition to specific projects listed below, genomics research is helping us attack uterine cancer – and all types of cancer. NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research and working to move people toward cancer genomics.

Wei Zhang, Ph.D.
Wei Zhang, Ph.D.

Dr. Wei Zhang has devoted his entire career to the pursuit of precision oncology – specifically to the key molecular and genomic events that drive the development and progression of cancer. For more than 20 years, Dr. Zhang has identified multiple novel cancer markers and oncogenic signaling molecules. His research addresses the variability in cellular properties, within and across cancer types, which often leads to treatment resistance and poor survival in patients.

Previous research by Dr. Zhang and his team identified genetic mutations in endometrioid endometrial carcinoma (EEC), the most common form of uterine cancer. These mutations revealed a more lethal version of an EEC subtype that was previously thought to respond well to treatment. If oncologists can identify the patients with this mutation early on, they may be able to try more aggressive treatment approaches that would increase the likelihood for positive outcomes.

Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.
Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.

Dr. Paul Fisher is developing novel therapies that deliver an immune modulator gene he discovered, IL/24, to primary and spreading tumor cells of many cancers, leaving healthy cells untouched. In models of endometrial cancer and numerous other types of cancer, IL/24 causes the tumor cells to commit ‘cell suicide’.

I/24 has other remarkable anti-cancer properties including activation of the immune system to further fight cancer and sensitizing tumor cells to radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. One type of IL/24 gene therapy in development also includes a gene that fluoresces (lights up) when IL/24 finds and destroys tumor cells for theranostic approach (detection and treatment-monitoring). Another therapy combines IL/24 with a patient’s own immune T cells (adoptive cell therapy) to supercharge the T cells to fight cancer. Research is advancing quickly so patients with many types of cancer may benefit from these groundbreaking therapies.

With support from NFCR, Dr. Fisher and Dr. Web Cavenee will first advance the lL/24 therapy for the aggressive brain cancer, glioblastoma (GBM). IL/24 gene therapy to a Phase I clinical trial to provide GBM patients hope for a new effective treatment.

Kathryn B. Horwitz, Ph.D.
Kathryn B. Horwitz, Ph.D.

Dr. Kathryn Horwitz’s laboratory, that received NFCR funding for 30 years, focuses on the hormones estradiol and progesterone and their role in breast cancer. Dr. Horwitz’s research has shown that dormant or “sleeping” tumors can be “awakened” by hormones. Her team’s studies have led to a better understanding of the significance of cell subtypes in luminal cancers, their role in initiating tumors and in spawning dormant mini-tumors at metastatic sites, and the roles of estradiol and progesterone in tumor arousal and recurrence. This work may also have a strong influence on the understanding and treatment of other hormone-related cancers, such as uterine and prostate cancer.

Related Content

Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Gynecologic cancer poses a large threat to the health of women across the globe. With September being devoted to special attention to the category of diseases, this National Foundation for Cancer Research blog post will go into some detail. Gynecologic cancers include all cancers of the female reproductive system, such as cancers of the cervix, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vulva and vagina. In the United States, it is predicted that over 100,000 women will be diagnosed with gynecologic cancer in 2018 alone. Over 30,000 women are predicted to die from this group of cancers. These statistics are staggering but, largely, changeable. By increasing human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, Pap smear screenings, HPV vaccine administration and genetic counselling substantial improvements will be made. It is within reach to significantly improve the quality of life, diagnosis frequency and survival rate for gynecologic cancer patients. Despite advances, over 14,000 women are predicted to die in 2018 from ovarian cancer. It is the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers, surpassing uterine cancer and cervical cancer. Ovarian cancer comes in three main types: ovarian epithelial, ovarian germ cell and low malignant tumors. All three major forms of ovarian cancer are impacted by testable genetic factors. Mutations in the cancer fighting genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, increases risk of ovarian, breast and other cancers by 30 times. It is, therefore, recommended that people with a family history of ovarian or breast cancer be tested for this mutation. A genetic test is a form of empowerment. It can empower a betterment in lifestyle, consistency in screenings and a sense of readiness and preparation. Genetic counselling alone could save thousands of American lives every year. Uterine cancer is a very common and potent cancer which has two major types: endometrial cancer and, the rare, uterine sarcoma. Endometrial cancer is, unfortunately, common due to its sensitivity to environmental conditions. High blood pressure, diabetes and obesity all increase odds of endometrial cancer. Lifestyle decisions are, therefore, crucial to minimization of uterine cancer risks. The second uterine cancer, uterine sarcoma, occurs in the muscles that support the uterus. The risk for uterine sarcoma is increased by x-ray exposure. The risk for uterine cancer also increases when using the breast cancer drug, Tamoxifen.  Cervical cancer is a disease most often caused by the HPV virus, which does have a vaccine. In 2017 research by the World Health Organization confirmed a near 100% effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing cervical, vulvar and vaginal disease caused by the virus. It is predicted that over 90% of cervical cancer incidences can be avoided through the vaccine. It is suggested that children aged 11 and 12 years begin to get the vaccination. In addition, it is important that all women get cervical cancer screening which can include a Pap test and genetic HPV testing. This is the most effective way to find precancerous cells of the cervix. Gynecological cancer is devastating yet also largely preventable. Through lifestyle change, better screenings, increased vaccinations and genetic counselling, it is possible to significantly minimize the suffering caused by gynecological cancer. Stay updated with the latest in cancer research References: […]

6 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Gynecologic Cancer