Ovarian Cancer Clinical Trials
- Your doctor may recommend a clinical trial as part of your cancer treatment
- ClinicalTrials.Gov has a searchable database of all clinical trials under way
- You’ll need to meet certain criteria to participate in a study
“I think that the combination of immunotherapy, anti-angiogenic therapy, and PARP inhibitors is likely where we’re headed as a speciality,” says Dr. John Nakayama, gynecologic oncologist at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio. Advances in these treatments have proven to be extremely effective in treating, and even curing ovarian cancer.Read More
Finding the Right Trial
As a first priority, he looks at whether there are available trials within University Hospitals or at other institutions nearby. However, he will recommend that patients travel if he thinks that a trial will truly benefit them.
Dr. Nakayama views it as part of his job to keep up to date on clinical trials that might help his patients. “I think it’s very important for your doctor to take charge and make sure that they know what clinical trials are available,” he says. The website clinicaltrials.gov is a good resource, because it lists every currently open trial.
“Not all clinical trials are good, and not all clinical trials are for each individual,” he cautions. Your doctor can help you determine which trials might benefit you, as well as which ones are available to you. You’ll need to meet certain medical criteria before you can enroll. Your doctor can then help you understand whether a particular trial is right for you.
Before signing up to participate in a clinical trial, you need to be clear about:
- The process involved
- How long the study will take
- What the potential risks are
- Whether the study will cover all of the associated treatment costs
Could a Clinical Trial Help You?
The most important factor in deciding whether to join a clinical trial is, of course, how it will help you in your current stage of treatment. No person’s cancer is the same as another’s, and therefore not all treatments will benefit everyone equally. “The decision to participate in a particular clinical trial is clearly based on the individual and all of the various factors that go into their disease state,” says Dr. Nakayama.
Dr. Nakayama recounts the story of one of his patients who underwent genetic testing and was found to have a gene mutation that put her at a higher likelihood of having a homologous recombination deficiency, or HRD. HRD is a genetic factor that makes it harder for ovarian cancer cells to repair themselves, which can help them respond better to certain types of chemotherapy and PARP inhibitor drugs.
PARP inhibitors are a new treatment that inhibits the cancer cells’ ability to repair themselves after damage. They’ve been found to be particularly effective in women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, as well as those with HRD. In both cases the ability of the cancer cells to repair themselves is already hampered, and the PARP inhibitors prevent this repair even more.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released new guidelines recommending PARP inhibitors be offered to women, with or without genetic mutations, who are newly diagnosed with stage III or IV ovarian cancer and have improved with chemotherapy.
Dr. Nakayama’s patient enrolled in a clinical trial of these drugs before they were FDA approved and available to prescribe. “And she’s still on that clinical trial,” he says. “She is still disease-free.” The PARP inhibitors not only successfully attacked the woman’s cancer cells, but they also prevented the cancer from returning. “She’s been on a PARP inhibitor for over three years now and basically avoided chemotherapy.”
While it’s important to remember that no clinical trial is guaranteed to have positive results, and it’s possible that you could be in a group that receives a placebo (inactive therapy), participating in one of these studies can sometimes change the outlook for women with ovarian cancer, as it did for Dr. Nakayama’s patient. “I think putting her on that trial totally changed her life,” he says.