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Scientists found a way to significantly improve treatment outcomes for a rare type of ovarian cancer

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Posted October 1, 2019

Ovarian cancer is the eighth most commonly occurring cancer in women – it is not very common. And in most cases disease cannot be detected in patients after they receive a course of chemotherapy and a surgery.

However, 70 % of ovarian cancer patients relapse and then the disease becomes incurable. Now scientists from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Texas found a drug, which quadruples the likelihood of response compared with standard therapies.

The standard treatment for ovarian cancer includes a surgery and a course of chemotherapy – it helps, but the cancer usually returns and becomes incurable. Image credit: Linda Bartlett via Wikimedia

The drug called trametinib was previously used to treat melanoma. This means that the safety of the drug has been already tested and its introduction in new application could be very smooth and rapid. Low grade serous ovarian cancer is a very rare form of cancer, which resists standard chemotherapy treatment.

It is different from other types of ovarian cancer – it affects younger women more often and is pretty much incurable for the standard treatment, involving a surgery and chemotherapy. Scientists have struggled to invent some sort of a more effective chemotherapy, but now an international team of researchers decided to go another route and look for drugs that would improve the effectiveness of standard chemotherapy instead.

Professor Charlie Gourley, one of the authors of the study, said: “Low grade serous ovarian cancer is different from other ovarian cancers because it affects younger women and is often resistant to chemotherapy. This is the first positive, randomised trial in this disease and represents a major breakthrough for patients with this type of ovarian cancer”.

This new trametinib trial involved 260 patients – some of them were given the trametinib, while other went through selected standard treatment. Trametinib works as a MEK inhibitor, blocking an abnormal signal in the cancer cell that causes it to multiply in an uncontrolled fashion.

Scientists followed up on these patients around two and a half years later and found that those who received a treatment with trametinib showed a chance of progression-free survival that was twice as large when compared to those who received standard of care treatment. Furthermore, in the group of patients who received trametinib treatment the percentage of shrunken tumours was four times higher.

This is still just the beginning. The research will have to continue, involving a bigger pool of patients. However, just because trametinib is already approved to melanoma treatment, it means that the drug could be introduced much quicker than completely new medicine.

 

Source: University of Edinburgh

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