Ovarian, Fallopian Tube, and Peritoneal Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

Doctors are working to learn more about ovarian/fallopian tube cancer. They are looking for ways to prevent these cancers, as well as looking for the best ways to treat them and provide care to people diagnosed with these diseases. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Most ovarian cancer trials now include patients with fallopian tube and peritoneal cancers. Always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options for you.

  • Screening. In general, cancer screening is used to look for cancer before a person has any signs or symptoms. There are currently no effective screening methods for these gynecologic diseases suitable for people in the general population who are not having symptoms. A screening method study that uses serial CA-125 blood tests and pelvic ultrasonography for finding early-stage ovarian/fallopian tube cancer has been completed, and it showed no survival benefit for screening. As noted in Diagnosis and Types of Treatment, CA-125 is a substance called a tumor marker that is found in higher levels in people with ovarian/fallopian tube cancer and in people with many benign conditions.

    The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued a statement that says that, for the general population of people with no symptoms, screening for ovarian/fallopian tube/peritoneal cancer is not helpful and may lead to harm.
    This is because it can lead to an increase in unnecessary surgical operations due to "false positive" test findings.

    Some have recommended that people at high risk of developing ovarian/fallopian tube/peritoneal cancer because of their family history or presence of BRCA1 or BRCA2 or other high-risk gene mutation(s) (see Risk Factors) should be screened with CA-125 blood tests and transvaginal ultrasound. As stated above, this approach has not been shown to help people live longer or find cancers at an earlier and more curable stage. Therefore, if a high-risk gene mutation exists, the recommendation is to remove both fallopian tubes and ovaries after an individual finishes giving birth to children or at approximately age 40. Or, if possible, they should be removed 10 years before the age of when the individual's closest relative developed ovarian cancer.

  • Other targeted therapies. As described in Types of Treatment, clinical trials are ongoing for many treatments that target different mutations, including KRAS, BRAF, PI3KCA, and PTEN. Many other new, targeted treatments are now being studied in clinical trials. Increasingly, doctors are learning about each patient’s individual tumor's biology through biomarker testing. This information may be useful in matching patients with a clinical trial for a specific targeted therapy. Learn more about the basics of targeted therapy.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a systemic therapy using medication designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight a cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to bolster, target, or restore immune system function. Researchers are examining whether drugs called checkpoint inhibitors may boost the immune system's ability to destroy cancer cells. Drugs in this category target PD-1, PD-L1, and CTLA4. They have been shown to shrink tumors in other types of cancer, such as melanoma and some lung cancers, and have had some effectiveness in certain settings for ovarian/fallopian tube cancer. Although initial trials have shown no benefit in slowing the cancer's growth, survival data is still forthcoming.

    Cancer vaccines are another type of immunotherapy researchers are testing to use for ovarian/fallopian tube cancer. Some approaches, called “adoptive cell therapy,” use cells called killer T cells from the immune system in an individual patient. Researchers take these cells and grow them in the laboratory, training them to attack certain targets, such as MUC 16 (CA-125), that are found on ovarian/fallopian tube cancer cells. Doctors then put the T cells back into the patient through an IV. This approach, also called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, has been used with some success in people with some blood cancers. Clinical trials are opening for ovarian/fallopian tube cancer. Talk with your doctor to learn more. Learn more about the basics of immunotherapy and cancer vaccines.

  • Hormone therapy. For treatment of recurrent or later-stage ovarian/fallopian tube cancer, tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors, and enzalutamide (Xtandi), a blocker of the androgen receptor, as well as combining aromatase inhibitors with a CDK4/6 inhibitor such as palbociclib (Ibrance), are being studied. Learn more about hormone therapy.

  • Gene therapy. A new area of research is discovering how damaged genes in ovarian/fallopian tube cancer cells can be corrected or replaced. Researchers are studying the use of specially designed viruses that carry normal genes into the core of cancer cells and then replace the defective genes with functional ones.

  • Palliative and supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of standard cancer treatments to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

If you would like more information about the latest areas of research in ovarian/fallopian tube cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.