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According to the results of a Phase II clinical trial, the investigational drug farletuzumab may have anticancer activity in the treatment of relapsed ovarian cancer when combined with chemotherapy. These results were presented at a European cancer conference.

Many women treated for ovarian cancer will eventually experience a return (relapse) of their cancer. Outcomes remain poor after treatment of relapsed disease, and researchers continue to explore new approaches to treatment.

Targeted therapies are anticancer drugs that interfere with specific pathways involved in cancer cell growth or survival. Some targeted therapies block growth signals from reaching cancer cells; others reduce the blood supply to cancer cells; and still others stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cell. Depending on the specific “target,” targeted therapies may slow cancer cell growth or increase cancer cell death.

Farletuzumab is an investigational drug that targets a protein known as the folate receptor alpha (FRA). In cancer cells that make too much FRA, farletuzumab may reduce cell proliferation and contribute to cell death.

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The combination of farletuzumab and chemotherapy was evaluated in a Phase II clinical trial among 44 women with relapsed ovarian cancer. The study was limited to women with platinum-sensitive cancer in first relapse. Chemotherapy consisted of a platinum and a taxane.

  • 69.8% of women experienced a reduction or elimination of detectable cancer.
  • 23% of women had their cancer stabilize.
  • In 20.5% of women, the duration of the second progression-free interval was at least as long as the first.
  • The frequency of severe side effects was similar to what would be expected with chemotherapy alone.

This study suggests that the addition of farletuzumab to chemotherapy may provide a benefit in relapsed ovarian cancer. Farletuzumab is being further evaluated in a Phase III clinical trial. Women with ovarian cancer may wish to talk with their doctor about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial of this or other promising therapeutic approaches.

Reference: Armstrong DK, Coleman R, White AJ et al. Efficacy and safety of farletuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody to folate receptor alpha, in platinum-sensitive relapsed ovarian cancer subjects: preliminary data from a phase-2 study. Presented at the Joint ECCO 15-34th ESMO Multidisciplinary Congress. Berlin, Germany, September 20-24, 2009. Abstract O-8000.

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