Pills Show Promise for Recurrent Ovarian Cancer
Preliminary findings suggest this experimental treatment might slow disease
The combination treatment delayed disease progression, with a median progression-free survival of 17.7 months, the researchers said. Past trials of standard chemotherapy for platinum-sensitive patients have demonstrated median progression-free survival times between eight and 13 months, they noted.
Five patients in the combination arm and two patients in the olaparib-alone arm had a complete remission, the findings showed.
"If you combine these two agents, we saw significantly improved activity," Liu said.
The drugs seem to be synergistic, meaning they make each other more effective when used together.
It's not clear how the drugs work in tandem, Liu said. One theory is that by depriving cancer cells of oxygen using cediranib, they are more vulnerable to DNA damage left unrepaired by olaparib. Another is that both might work to retard the growth of blood vessels to the tumor.
Using both drugs together does increase side effects, most commonly high blood pressure, fatigue and diarrhea, the researchers said. For the most part, side effects were managed by treating the symptoms or adjusting the dosage of the drugs, Liu said.
Dr. David Fishman is a gynecologic oncologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and a professor at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. He called the new findings "extremely exciting."
"We're entering an era where we are identifying unique pathways for cancer, and therapies that attack the unique biology of cancer will be much more effective than we've had in the past," he said.
Fishman compared the way cancer works to a cross-country road trip, where "there are many ways to drive from New York City to Portland." These targeted therapies form road blocks along some of the major routes, forcing the cancer onto little-used and less efficient side roads.
"This is a demonstration that understanding the biology of the tumor and applying a therapy that is unique to that tumor is effective," he said.