By Sarah Garcia
For women with recurrent ovarian cancer, hope may lie in immunotherapy – a type of treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to combat the cancer. A recent small study may point to future success in extending survival for women with ovarian cancer through a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
A group of researchers from Gynecologic Oncology Centre, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University and General University in Prague presented the findings at this year’s Society of Gynecologic Oncology meeting.
The phase II clinical trial looked at overall survival in a group of 64 women, with half receiving chemotherapy alone and the other half receiving a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy. The results showed prolonged survival for those receiving the combination treatment – 73 percent survival at two years, compared to 41 percent for those receiving just chemotherapy.
“Historically, the use of immunotherapy in the treatment of ovarian cancer has been limited to small research studies, and overall response rates have been limited,” said Dr. Robert Wenham, chair of Moffitt’s Department of Gynecologic Oncology. “Although this study examines only a small number of patients, the results are intriguing.”
What makes combination therapy more effective? According to Wenham, the chemotherapy may cause more targets to be made by damaging the DNA and leading to increased mutations; or it may favorably alter the relative amounts of both active and suppressor immune cells.
“Results like this keep us hopeful that we will find a way to successfully bring immunotherapy into the future treatment of ovarian cancer,” Wenham says, “but much more work and validation will be needed.”
The research group plans to conduct a larger, phase III clinical trial sometime in 2019.