Continuing chemotherapy following initial treatment of advanced ovarian cancer may improve survival, according to a study published in Cancer.
Ovarian cancer has the highest mortality rate of all gynecologic cancers. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women, with an estimated 21,550 new cases and 14,600 deaths in 2009.
Treatment for ovarian cancer commonly involves surgery and chemotherapy. Outcomes for women diagnosed with advanced disease remain poor, and there is a greater than 75% risk that disease will recur following primary therapy. Researchers continue to evaluate new approaches to treatment.
Results from previous trials have indicated that continuing chemotherapy in ovarian cancer patients whose disease has responded to adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy given after surgical removal of cancer) may reduce the risk of a recurrence. Depending on how long it continues, chemotherapy at this stage is referred to as consolidation therapy or maintenance therapy. Research into continued chemotherapy in advanced ovarian cancer has so far been inconclusive.
To further evaluate whether continued therapy after initial treatment can improve survival among patients with advanced ovarian cancer, researchers analyzed results from 37 previous studies. They determined that patients treated with adjuvant therapy and either consolidation or maintenance therapy had improved progression-free survivals and overall survivals. Patients with advanced cancer who reached a complete response after initial treatment appeared to benefit the most.
The researchers concluded that even though individual studies haven’t independently shown that continued therapy can improve survival in patients with advanced ovarian cancer, when data from these studies are analyzed together, continued therapy does appear to improve survival.
Additional information about the safety and efficacy of continued chemotherapy will be provided by studies that are currently underway. Because continued chemotherapy is likely to increase side effects, it will be important to understand the balance of risks and benefits.
Reference: Hess LM, Nan Rong N, Monahan PO, et al. Continued chemotherapy after complete response to primary therapy among women with advanced ovarian cancer. Cancer [early online publication]. July 27, 2010.
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