Drug Combo Fights Recurrent Ovarian Cancer Cell Growth

Researchers say trabectedin showed promise in Phase III trial, hope for FDA approval

THURSDAY, Sept. 18, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- The anti-cancer drug trabectedin shows promise in treating women with recurrent ovarian cancer, according to a study led by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

The international Phase III study included 672 ovarian cancer patients whose disease had progressed after first-line treatment. Half the women received standard treatment with the chemotherapy drug pegylated liposomal doxorubicin, while the other half received the chemotherapy drug and trabectedin.

Women who received the combination therapy had no cancer progression for an average of 7.3 months, compared to 5.8 months for those who received the chemotherapy drug alone.

Among women who'd had ovarian cancer relapse more than six months after the first-line therapy, the median progression-free time was 9.2 months for those who received the combination treatment and 7.5 months for those who received the chemotherapy drug alone.

The findings were presented Sept. 15 at the 33rd Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology, in Stockholm, Sweden.

"These are exciting results, because positive trials in recurrent ovarian cancer are rare and have almost always led to federally approved treatments," study leader Dr. Bradley Monk, a UC Irvine gynecologic oncologist, said in a university news release.

"This treatment undoubtedly will be evaluated carefully by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and, if approved, will give women with ovarian cancer another much needed option," said Monk, an associate professor who studies and treats ovarian cancer at UC Irvine's Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Trabectedin (brand name Yondelis) is used in Europe and South Korea to treat advanced soft tissue sarcoma. It's also being tested for treatment of prostate, breast and pediatric cancers.

The drug is a synthetic version of a compound isolated from the sea squirt, a tubular marine creature used in numerous medical studies. The drug binds to the DNA of cancer cells and blocks their ability to multiply, according to information in the UC Irvine news release.

Each year in the United States, about 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and about 15,000 die of the disease. When the disease is detected early (confined to the ovaries), about 90 percent of patients live at least five years. But when ovarian cancer is detected after it's spread, only about 30 percent of patients survive five years.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about ovarian cancer.

SPURCE: University of California, Irvine, news release, Sept. 15, 2008
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