New treatment for ovarian cancer proves successful

An international team of researchers has shown that ovarian cancer patients treated with an antibody in combination with chemotherapy live longer than those treated with conventional chemotherapy. UZ Leuven, which led the research, announced this on Thursday.

Chemotherapy is known to be an effective treatment against cancer, however, it not only kills cancer cells, but also damages healthy cells, which can lead to side effects such as hair loss and fatigue. An antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) is a relatively new drug that consists of an antibody to which a chemotherapy drug has been attached. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, this method can target the cancer cells.

"The antibody binds to certain proteins on the outside of the cancer cells," explains Professor Toon Van Gorp (UZ Leuven), head of the Department of Gynaecological Oncology and principal investigator of the study. "Like a Trojan horse, the cancer cell brings in the ADC and then breaks it down. This releases the chemotherapy and attacks the cancer cells. By targeting the ADC, we see fewer general side effects and can still eliminate cancer cells more selectively."

The new trial took place between February 2020 and March 2023. Spread across 21 countries, 453 patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer were randomly assigned to receive either treatment with the ADC 'mirvetuximab soravtansine' or conventional chemotherapy. In the group treated with mirvetuximab soravtansine, the disease stayed away longer, and the treatment was generally better tolerated.

"Ovarian cancer can usually be treated well with platinum-based chemotherapy, but over time, almost all patients relapse because the tumour cells become resistant," says Van Gorp. "Once ovarian cancer is no longer sensitive to platinum-based chemotherapy, the disease becomes very difficult to treat. This new treatment offers hope to our patients. It is the first time in more than 30 years that a new drug can improve survival in chemotherapy-resistant disease.

The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

#FlandersNewsService |©CTK Photo/Patrik Uhlir

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