Ovarian Cancer Emerging Research

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2023

Researchers are always looking for new and better ways to treat ovarian cancer. Advances in surgery, chemotherapy, and other treatments are being explored in clinical trials.

Talk to your doctor about how new research may impact your treatment. If you are interested in joining a clinical trial, ask your doctor if that might be an option for you.

Debulking surgery and heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy

A study published in August 2020 examined primary debulking surgery and heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) in people with stage III epithelial ovarian cancer.1,2

People who received primary debulking surgery along with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy had improved survival compared to people who only received primary debulking surgery alone (without heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy).1,2

While there are limitations to the study, this is promising news for people who may be able to get HIPEC. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines recommend consideration of HIPEC in all patients with stage III disease for which neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy given before surgery) and interval debulking surgery is performed at the time of interval debulking surgery.3

Targeted therapy and ovarian cancer

A study published in 2020 shows promising results with the targeted therapy drug Votrient® (pazopanib) combined with cyclophosphamide taken by mouth. At the time of the study, Votrient has not been approved for treatment for ovarian cancer. However, it can be used off-label depending on the situation.4

The study looked at people who have recurrent (has come back after treatment) epithelial ovarian cancer that is resistant to platinum-based chemotherapies. Results show that 45 percent of people taking Votrient and oral cyclophosphamide (a chemotherapy drug) had their cancer shrink.4

This is important because many treatments for ovarian cancer use platinum-based chemotherapies. Votrient and cyclophosphamide may offer a new treatment option for platinum-resistant ovarian cancer.4

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Advances in immunotherapy

Bevacizumab (and bevacizumab biosimilars) and oral (taken by mouth) cyclophosphamide is an established combination treatment for certain forms of ovarian cancer. A study looked at using this combination plus Keytruda® (pembrolizumab).5

The study included people with both platinum-resistant ovarian cancer and platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer. Researchers found that the cancer disappeared, shrank, or remained stable in 95 percent of the people in the study who received the combination plus Keytruda.5

As of early 2023, Keytruda is not approved to treat certain forms of ovarian cancer on its own (although it may be used for certain solid tumors with specific characteristics regardless of body site). However, the study shows it may be beneficial when used with other drugs.5

Immunotherapy and ovarian cancer

A current clinical trial is examining a new type of T-cell immunotherapy called DPX-Survivac. This treatment helps the immune system target cancer cells that have the survivin protein on their surface. This protein has been shown to promote tumor growth.6

Researchers are studying how an injection of DPX-Survivac triggers activation of T-cells that fight against survivin-positive cancers. The injection is given along with low-dose cyclophosphamide for certain types of advanced solid tumor cancers that have already been treated with other forms of treatment. This includes certain forms of ovarian cancer.6

Early results from the trial show some benefits of this treatment for advanced and recurrent (has come back) ovarian cancer. More research needs to be done, but this is promising news for future treatment options.6

Things to consider

If you are interested in learning how new research may impact your treatment, talk to your doctor or treatment team. Your team can also talk to you about options for joining a clinical trial. They may be able to tell you if new advances might apply to your treatment plan, overall health, and outcome.

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