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According to results presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology summer educational conference, a novel compound called trabectedin (ET 743) produces anti-cancer responses in some patients with refractory and recurrent ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is a common malignancy occurring in women in the United States, with about 25,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It remains the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States. The ovary makes female hormones and stores all the eggs that are released once a month during ovulation. There are two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer does not produce clearly recognizable symptoms, if any, in early stages. Therefore, most cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed at later stages, after the cancer has spread from its site of origin. Patients with advanced ovarian cancer have poor survival rates, particularly if their cancer has returned or stopped responding to standard therapies.

Trabectedin (ET 743) is an agent still in clinical trials that is derived from marine compounds. ET 743 binds to an area of the DNA called the minor groove. This binding inhibits cellular replication and causes the cell to destroy itself. Recently, researchers from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan conducted a clinical trial evaluating trabectedin in patients with recurrent and refractory ovarian cancer. Patients whose cancer has progressed while on prior therapy or within 6 months of prior therapy were considered to have refractory disease. Patients whose cancer has returned after more than 6 months of completing prior therapy were considered to have recurrent disease. In this trial, 36 patients with recurrent and refractory ovarian cancer were treated with trabectedin. An anti-cancer response was achieved in 25% of patients. Patients with recurrent cancer had an improved response rate compared to those with refractory cancer. After adjusting the dose, treatment with trabectedin was well tolerated.

The researcher concluded that trabectedin has activity in some patients with recurrent or refractory ovarian cancer. Longer follow-up is necessary to determine if anti-cancer responses confer a survival benefit. A clinical trial combining trabectedin with Platinol® is planned to determine if combination therapy may improve responses. Patients with recurrent or refractory ovarian cancer may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating trabectedin or other promising therapeutic approaches. Two sources of information regarding ongoing clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (

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Reference: Parma G, Bauer J, Noberasco C, et al. Yondelis (ET743, trabectedin) antitumor activity in ovarian cancer patients pretreated with platinum-taxane regimens. Proceedings from the European Society for Medical Oncology summer educational conference. 2003. Abstract #50PD.

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