Combination of Targeted Therapies Increases the Time it Takes for Recurrent Ovarian Cancer to Worsen

ASCO Annual Meeting
May 31, 2014

In a recent study, researchers found that the combination of olaparib and cediranib (Recentin) kept recurrent ovarian cancer from worsening for almost nine months longer than treatment with olaparib alone. Recurrent ovarian cancer is cancer that has come back after the initial treatment. The current standard treatment for recurrent ovarian cancer is chemotherapy, which can cause severe side effects and may not work very well because the cancer often develops a resistance to chemotherapy, meaning that the chemotherapy that was used initially can no longer control the cancer’s growth. This is why researchers have been studying other ways to treat recurrent ovarian cancer, such as the use of olaparib and cediranib.

Both of these drugs are targeted therapies, but they work differently to treat cancer. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Olaparib is a type of targeted therapy called a PARP inhibitor. Cediranib is a type called an anti-angiogenic that is focused on stopping the process of making new blood vessels, which are needed for a tumor to grow and spread.

For this study, 90 women with recurrent ovarian cancer that was either a type called high-grade serous or was related to a BRCA gene mutation, or change, received either olaparib by itself or olaparib plus cediranib. Researchers found that 80% of the women who received the combination of therapies had the tumors shrink, and it took about 18 months for the cancer to worsen. Additionally, five patients who received the combination had no signs or symptoms of cancer after treatment. For those who received only olaparib, 48% had the tumors shrink, and it took about nine months for the disease to worsen. Two patients who received olaparib only had no signs or symptoms of cancer after treatment.

Some side effects, such as high blood pressure, fatigue, and diarrhea, were more common for women taking the combination therapy. However, these side effects were often manageable with treatment of the symptoms or by reducing the treatment doses, if needed.

What this means for patients

“The significant activity that we saw with the combination suggests that this could potentially be an effective alternative to standard chemotherapy,” said lead study author Joyce Liu, MD, MPH, an instructor in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. “At the same time, this approach is not yet ready for clinical practice as neither of these drugs is currently FDA approved for ovarian or any other cancer. We also need additional clinical trials to confirm the findings of this study to see how this combination compares to standard treatment.” Talk with your doctor about all of your treatment options for recurrent ovarian cancer, including clinical trials.

Dr. Liu was a recipient of a Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Young Investigator Award in 2008.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What type and stage of ovarian cancer do I have? What does this mean?
  • Is it recurrent? If so, has it spread elsewhere in my body?
  • What is my chance of recovery?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What treatment plan do you recommend? Why?
  • What is the chance of success with the planned treatment?
  • What clinical trials are open to me?

More Information

Guide to Ovarian Cancer

Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Targeted Treatments