According to study results recently published in Gynecologic Oncology, the combination of the chemotherapy agents Gemzar® (gemcitabine) and Doxil® (liposomal doxorubicin) offers promise for the treatment of women with recurrent ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly gynecologic cancers because diagnosis tends to be at a late stage (once the cancer has spread) and is thus difficult to cure. Symptoms of early-stage ovarian cancer may go unnoticed by the patient and may include vague sensations such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea and/or abdominal pain. Although advanced ovarian cancer may respond to initial therapy, it often recurs; this stage is referred to as recurrent ovarian cancer. Patients with recurrent ovarian cancer have dismal long-term outcomes with standard treatment approaches. Researchers continue to evaluate new chemotherapy combinations and therapeutic approaches in order to improve the duration of survival and/or quality of life for patients with this disease.
Researchers in Italy conducted this multi-center phase II study to further evaluate the efficacy and safety of the combination of Gemzar and Doxil for the treatment of patients with recurrent ovarian cancer. Participants in the study included women with recurrent ovarian cancer who had previously been treated with a minimum of one platinum regimen (Paraplatin® or Platinol® /paclitaxel (Taxol®). Each patient in this study was treated with Doxil, followed by Gemzar. Of the 106 patients evaluated, nine (8.5 percent) had a complete response (complete disappearance of detectable cancer), and 27 (25.5 percent) had a partial response (partial shrinking of detectable cancer). Overall survival was longer in platinum-sensitive patients (patients who achieved an anti-cancer response lasting greater than six months to platinum chemotherapy) than in platinum-resistant patients (patients whose cancer either did not respond to platinum-based chemotherapy or whose anti-cancer responses lasted less than 6 months). Median survival was 92 weeks among platinum-sensitive patients and 50 weeks among platinum-resistant patients. In both the platinum-sensitive and the platinum-resistant groups, survival was longer among patients who responded to Gemzar plus Doxil. Twenty patients (18 percent) experienced very low blood cell counts as a result of treatment.
Researchers concluded that the combination of Gemzar and Doxil is “a valid approach” for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer. They describe the survival data as “encouraging” and note that regardless of initial platinum sensitivity, patients who responded to the combination of Gemzar® and Doxil® had an improved survival compared to those who did not respond to the regimen. Patients with recurrent ovarian cancer may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participation in a clinical trial further evaluating Gemzar/Doxil or other promising therapeutic approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and www.cancerconsultants.com.
Reference: Ferrandina G, Paris I, Ludovisi M et al. Gemcitabine and liposomal doxorubicin in the salvage treatment of ovarian cancer: updated results and long-term survival. Gynecologic Oncology. 2005;98:267-273.