Treating Ovarian Cancer

When a woman is first diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the treatment program is determined based on the stage of the cancer, using guidelines published by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). NCCN is an organization of medical professionals that develops therapy recommendations based on results of scientific studies.

Initial Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer: First-line Treatment

The current NCCN guidelines recommend that initial treatment for ovarian cancer include surgery combined with drugs like Taxol and Carboplatin (“chemotherapy” drugs) that work by disrupting the cell division process and killing fast-growing cells. Because cancer cells are dividing more rapidly than normal cells, the cancer cells are preferentially killed by the drugs; however, normal cells are killed as well.

Recurrence: Therapy Options When Ovarian Cancer Returns

Most patients with advanced stage disease have tumors that respond to initial therapy, but if the tumor does not respond, the cancer is considered refractory. Unfortunately, 75-80% of the women who initially respond will have a recurrence of their disease. Chemotherapy drugs become less effective over time, as cancer cells change rapidly and may become resistant to the drugs. These newly resistant cancer cells may continue to divide, ultimately forming new tumors. This is often what happens when a woman has a recurrence of her ovarian cancer.

This can happen within six months of ending treatment (i.e., platinum-resistant) or more than six months and even years later (i.e. platinum-sensitive).

When a woman has recurrent ovarian cancer, her physician has many different chemotherapy drugs and clinical trial drugs from which to choose. Unlike at initial diagnosis, where the platinum-taxane combination is effective in most women and is therefore the standard-of-care treatment, the choice at recurrence is more complex and is affected by additional factors, such as how much time has passed since the initial treatment.

Without a roadmap to guide which drugs are most likely to work, the choice is often a difficult one, and various treatment regimens may be tried in a “trial-and-error” approach.

Clearity Foundation’s Tumor Blueprint

The Clearity Foundation’s mission is to transform treatment for recurrent ovarian cancer by enabling more informed choices—choices based on each woman’s unique molecular profile. We call this information a Tumor Blueprint. Understanding what is going on in your tumor at the molecular level may help you and your physician make a more informed choice about your treatment.