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From technology improvements to promising treatments, advances are on the way.
By Jane E Allen
One of the key obstacles in treating women with recurrent ovarian cancer has been overcoming resistance that can develop during repeated courses of chemotherapy. Preliminary results from an international phase 2 clinical trial of the drug VEGF Trap (aflibercept), reported at the June meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, suggest that it holds promise for women whose cancers have stopped responding to chemotherapy. Researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City found that among 162 patients with advanced disease who enrolled in the trial, 85 percent had favorable results after a month of treatment with the drug, which blocks the sprouting of new blood vessels that nourish the cancer and help it spread. Tumors shrank in 8 percent of patients, and the disease was stabilized in 77 percent of them.
In other approaches, scientists continue to compare the effectiveness of the estrogen-blocking drug tamoxifen to that of thalidomide, which blocks blood vessel growth, in treating recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer. Several studies are analyzing the effectiveness of immunotherapy drugs, which send the body’s own immune system on a search-and-destroy mission against cancer cells. Some scientists believe that combining molecularly targeted drugs and hormonal therapies to give a one-two punch may prove the most powerful approach yet.