Ovarian Cancer Emerging Research

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2022 | Last updated: April 2022

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.

Secondary debulking surgery and intraperitoneal chemotherapy

A study published in August 2020 examined secondary debulking surgery and intraperitoneal chemotherapy in people with stage III epithelial ovarian cancer.1,2

People who finished chemotherapy at least 1 year before the second surgery and had less than 3 sites of cancer showed the most benefit from this treatment. If all visible cancer was surgically removed, the overall survival rate was more than 5 years. The survival rate for those who did not have surgery was less than 4 years.1,2

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

Targeted therapy and ovarian cancer

A study published in March 2020 shows promising results with the targeted therapy drug Votrient® (pazopanib). At the time of the study, Votrient has not been approved for treatment for ovarian cancer. However, it can be used off-label.3

The study looked at people who have recurrent (has come back) 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.3

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.3

Advances in immunotherapy

As of early 2021, Avastin® (bevacizumab) and cyclophosphamide (a chemotherapy drug) are an approved combination treatment for certain forms of ovarian cancer. A new study is looking at using this combination plus Keytruda® (pembrolizumab).4

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.4

As of January 2021, Keytruda is not approved on its own to treat certain forms of ovarian cancer. However, the study shows it may be beneficial when used with other drugs.4

Immunotherapy and ovarian cancer

As of early 2020, a 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.5

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 (a chemotherapy drug) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) 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.5

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.5

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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