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Landmark trials show potentially lifesaving treatment for ovarian cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Potentially lifesaving treatment for ovarian cancer presented by researchers

Results of new clinical trials have found intense treatment that involves bathing the abdomen with chemotherapy could offer potentially lifesaving treatment for women with ovarian cancer. Researchers presented findings at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer in Los Angeles, March 9-12, 2013 showing the therapy is significantly better than receiving intravenous chemotherapy.

The results come from the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) trials. Researchers explain the advantages of the treatment, known as intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy are substantial for surviving ovarian cancer that is the ninth most common cancer among women.

How IP treatment works

Devansu Tewari, MD, Director of Gynecologic Oncology for the Southern California Permanente Medical Group in Orange County, Calif., of Kaiser Permanente and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine said in a press release, “Too many women do not receive an explanation about the advantages and disadvantages of IP therapy and that it could be a potential life saver.

Tewari adds because the ovarian cancer treatment has side effects that include numbness of the hands and feet and abdominal pain, it’s important for women to seek a physician familiar with IP chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy involves 6 cycles of treatment. Cancer killing drugs are delivered directly to the abdomen, versus the bloodstream where the chemotherapeutic agents then stay longer to kill cancer cells. Bathing the abdomen with anti-cancer drugs allows for more exposure and better results, the researchers explain.

The trials showed women who completed all of the treatment cycles were 17 percent more likely to survive ovarian cancer for 10 years, compared to women given intravenous chemotherapy.

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Better survival found in trials

Median five-year survival for IV chemotherapy was 51 months, compared to 62 months for women who received IP therapy.

After 5 years, 69 percent of women who received IP chemotherapy were alive, compared to 33 percent of those who had three or four cycles and 18 percent of women who completed one or two cycles.

The trials offer new hope for treating ovarian cancer that fortunately has been declining over the past 20 years.

The cancer is usually diagnosed in older women over age 60. Approximately 22, 280 women were newly diagnosed with the disease in 2012, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society.

IP therapy to treat ovarian cancer follows surgery to remove as much cancer as possible. Dr. Tewari said the type of chemotherapy should be more widely offered to women, but only administered by physicians’ familiar with side effects and management of side effects.

Speak with your doctor if you have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer to find out if you might be a candidate for intraperitoneal chemotherapy, found in new trials to be a potentially lifesaving treatment.


Image credit: Wikimedia commons