Ovarian Cancer – An Introduction, with Dr. Paul Sabbatini

Last Updated: August 20, 2018

In this video, Dr. Paul Sabbatini gives an overview of ovarian cancer, including outlining new areas of research about its treatment.

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Guide to Ovarian Cancer

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Cancer.Net®: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

Ovarian Cancer: An Introduction

What is Ovarian Cancer?

Paul Sabbatini, MD: Ovarian cancer is a tumor that affects the ovaries in women.  Ovaries are the reproductive organs which produce eggs and they also produce hormones.  We’re actually learn that ovarian cancer may actually start in the tube adjacent to the ovary called the fallopian tube; that’s the tube that carries the egg from the ovary to the uterus.  And this is important because as we learn about pre-carcer (ph.) legions or legions that might lead to ovarian cancer it may give us new strategies for treatment and even new strategies for prevention. 

Types of Ovarian Cancer

Dr. Sabbatini: With ovarian cancer there are many different types.  The most common type is a serus (ph.) or high grade ovarian cancer, but beyond that there are other types such as mucinous (ph.) ovarian cancer or clear cell ovarian cancer.  And these are important because they have different molecular drivers and they also respond to different treatments. 

Different types respond differently and this can be related to stage or grade or tumor type and it’s very important to understand that the treatment for one person may be different than from another. 

Treatment Option for Ovarian Cancer

Dr. Sabbatini: In general when someone is diagnosed with ovarian cancer the treatment generally includes surgery and chemotherapy.  The surgery is called debulking and we know that maximum surgical debulking generally yields the best results and this is often followed by chemotherapy.  Chemotherapy generally includes drugs like Paclitaxel (ph.) or Carboplatin (ph.) or Sisplatin (ph.).  There are some differences in the way the drugs are given, for example, sometimes they may be given on a weekly schedule or they may be given through a port and be given directly into the abdomen. There are certain tumor types that don’t require these drugs and that depends on the initial diagnosis.

Research Advances in Ovarian Cancer

Dr. Sabbatini: I think one of the exciting recent advances is that we’re learning to characterize ovarian cancer not how it looks under the microscope but are doing more molecular profiling or looking at molecular changes which may make tumors respond to different treatments or behave in a certain way.

So as we learn more about which tumors respond to which drugs we can develop a more personalized approach and a patient would have a higher chance of having a response.

Other new approaches for women with ovarian cancer come in the field of immunology.  So this is the idea that you can use the immune system to attack tumors, much in the way it treats infections, for example.  There are new data with drugs called checkpoint inhibitors.  These are drugs that actually turn on the immune system when applied.  There’s also been recent information about some vaccine or other immunotherapy strategies. And I think in general this area of research is very interesting and is promising.

Where to Get More Information

Dr. Sabbatini: If someone is looking for additional information beyond their health care team I think the internet has some good sources.  Some websites are affiliated with certain hospitals or medical centers.  I think standard good resources are the Cancer.gov website and the Clinicaltrials.gov website which is overseen by the National Cancer Institute and then there’s the Cancer.net website which is overseen by the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

[Closing and Credits]

Cancer.Net®: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

ASCO's patient education programs are supported by Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical OncologyConquerCancerFoundation.org  

Special Thanks:

Dr. Mary Wilkinson, Dr. Raymund Cuevo, and the staff at Medical Oncology & Hematology Associates of Northern Virginia

Carolyn B. Hendricks, MD, The Cancer for Breast Health

Hasbro Children’s Hospital

Helen F. Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care Health System

The Adele R. Decof Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Miriam Hospital. The Miriam Hospital is a teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

Video Footage and photography courtesy of:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Biomedical Communications

Moffitt Cancer Center

University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center

The opinions expressed in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of ASCO or the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

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