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New Drug May Slow Advanced Ovarian Cancer

Study found it prolonged remission after chemotherapy almost six months longer than a placebo

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Women with advanced ovarian cancer stayed in remission almost six months longer when they were treated with the targeted drug pazopanib (Votrient), new German research says.

"Our findings show that we finally have a drug that can maintain control over ovarian cancer growth achieved through initial treatments," study author Dr. Andreas du Bois, a professor of gynecologic oncology at Kliniken Essen-Mitte in Essen, said in a statement. "If pazopanib is approved for ovarian cancer, many patients will experience longer disease-free and chemotherapy-free periods. During this time, the patient keeps control over the disease, instead of the disease having control over patient's life."

The results were to be presented Saturday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, in Chicago. Research presented at medical meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

However, other cancer experts warned against placing too much hope in these early findings.

"I would say that it is intriguing, but I think it's important for the public to know this is not a home run," said Dr. Karen Lu, a professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston. "This is an incremental step in the right direction. There did not seem to be a survival advantage. It does increase by 5.6 months, on average, the amount of time a woman does not need to be on chemotherapy, but in terms of prolonging survival or increasing the rate of cure, it doesn't reach that standard."

Advanced ovarian cancer is an aggressive disease with a cure rate of only 20 percent to 25 percent, according to background information in the study. It is often referred to as a "silent killer" because it usually is not detected until it has progressed into its later stages. Two of every three patients with advanced ovarian cancer experience a relapse following successful initial treatment with surgery and chemotherapy.

"Ovarian cancer is a difficult disease to treat," explained Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. "We don't have effective screening, and women present with more advanced disease."

No targeted therapies are currently approved in the United States for maintenance treatment of ovarian cancer.

Pazopanib, which is taken in pill form, works by blocking the growth of tumors and their blood vessels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved its use for the treatment of kidney cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. The drug's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, funded this latest research.

In the study, 940 patients with stage III or IV ovarian cancer received either pazopanib or a placebo daily for 24 months. All patients already had gone through surgery and chemotherapy that successfully prevented the disease from worsening.

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