Breakthrough Research by Linda Duska, MD, MPH, Reveals Potential for Improved Cervical Cancer Treatment

Linda Duska, MD

In 2020, Linda Duska, MD, MPH, became a primary investigator in an international study exploring a specific chemotherapy treatment, pembrolizumab, targeting high-risk locally advanced cervical cancer. Dr. Duska and other investigators presented findings of this research at the 2023 European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress, showcasing favorable outcomes that could improve cervical cancer treatment. 

Patients with high-risk, locally-advanced cervical cancer were enrolled in the study spanning over two years and received either the standard treatment of chemotherapy plus radiation or the standard treatment combined with pembrolizumab, the immunotherapy drug being researched in the study that activates the immune system against cancer cells. The results of the study revealed that 68% of participants who were administered pembrolizumab were disease free, or still in remission, compared to 57% who were administered the standard treatment. 

Though there are patients currently receiving the study treatment and it is too early for conclusive data on survival, this breakthrough has the potential to reshape treatment approaches, offering hope and improved outcomes for individuals facing high-risk locally advanced cervical cancer. “These results are meaningful because they allow us to identify a population of patients with cervical cancer who will potentially benefit from the addition of immunotherapy to the standard treatment,” said Dr. Duska. 

As we observe Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, this research underscores the collaborative work being done to create more effective treatments for cervical cancer and the ongoing commitment to advancing gynecologic cancer research. 

Linda Duska, MD, MPH, is a gynecologic oncologist at University of Virginia (UVA) Health. She is also a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Associate Dean for Clinical Research at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, VA. Dr. Duska is the recipient of the FWC 2003-2004 Gynecologic Cancer Foundation/GlaxoSmithKline Ovarian Cancer Award and the 2014-2015 Public Service Award.