A recent study whose results were presented during the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO) Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer in Chicago found that personalized medicine is getting closer to reality for women suffering with late-stage ovarian cancer.
Researchers are developing an experimental immunotherapy to target each individual tumor and extend the time period between the initial treatment and the moment when cancer returns.
“This is cutting edge medicine for ovarian cancer,” noted Dr. Jonathan Oh who is a gynecologic oncologist at Texas Oncology in Dallas.
The Phase 2 study enrolled 31 women suffering with stage III or IV ovarian cancer, 20 of whom received immunotherapy while the remaining 11 did not. The results showed that women who did not receive immunotherapy had cancer recurrence over a median of 14.5 months; the majority of those who did receive immunotherapy have not yet reached the median time to recurrence, which has far surpassed 14.5 months.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2015, 21,290 women will receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and 14,180 will die because of the disease. Because the symptoms are many times not noticed during the early stages of disease, it is frequent that women are only diagnosed at later time points when treatment is less effective and the chances of survival are not so bright.
Almost 80 percent of women treated for ovarian cancer have a relapse after their first therapy. “This immunotherapy may keep the cancer away longer,” said Dr. Oh in a press release.
This immunotherapy is referred to as “bifunctional” as it targets a biochemical pathway in cancer cells that stimulates the patient’s immune response. Sample cells are collected during the initial surgery to remove the tumor so that a personalized immunotherapy can be developed. Dr. Oh noted that, “This was a preliminary study with promising results that may give women with advanced ovarian cancer an option for a maintenance regimen. Additionally, the vaccine is very well tolerated.”
“The results from this clinical trial suggest that using a patient’s immune system to fight advanced ovarian cancer may be a promising avenue to improve outcomes in what has continued to be the most aggressive gynecologic cancer,” concluded Krishnansu S. Tewari from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, Orange, CA.