Ovarian, Fallopian Tube, and Peritoneal Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 10/2017

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 them, 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. Screening is used to look for cancer before a person has any signs or symptoms. There are no effective screening methods for these diseases suitable for the general symptom-free population. A screening method that uses serial CA-125 blood tests and pelvic ultrasonography for detecting early-stage ovarian/fallopian tube cancer has been completed, and it is not clear whether this approach will help people live longer. As noted in Diagnosis and Treatment Options, CA-125 is a substance called a tumor marker that is found in higher levels in women with ovarian/fallopian tube cancer and in women with many benign conditions.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s statement says that, for the general population of women with no symptoms, screening for ovarian/fallopian tube cancer is not helpful and may lead to harm.

Some have recommended that women at high risk of developing ovarian/fallopian tube 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 women 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 a woman finishes having children or around the time she turns 40.

  • Other targeted therapies. As described in Treatment Options, clinical trials are ongoing on 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 molecular 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 usually 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 patients with ovarian/fallopian tube cancer.

    Cancer vaccines are another type of immunotherapy researchers are testing for use against ovarian/fallopian tube cancer. Some approaches, called “adoptive cell therapy,” use 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 via an IV. This approach has been tried with some early success in patients with blood cancers. Clinical trials are opening for ovarian/fallopian tube cancer. Learn more about the basics of immunotherapy.

  • 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, are being studied.

  • 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 care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of standard cancer treatments to improve a patient’s comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

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

  • To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.

  • Visit the Cancer.Net Blog to read reviews of recent research in ovarian/fallopian tube cancer and to listen to podcasts with expert perspectives on the topic.

  • Visit the website of the Conquer Cancer Foundation to find out how to help support cancer research. Please note that this link takes you to a separate ASCO website.  

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