September 30, 2019

A promising treatment for ovarian cancer

Clinical trial could provide a new treatment option for women with advanced ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer has been called the “silent killer,” because it often goes undetected until its advanced stages. More than three-quarters of patients who receive treatment develop more progressive cancer within 3 years of a diagnosis.

For more than 2 decades, medical oncologists have searched for new ways to boost the effectiveness of current treatments for ovarian cancer. A new clinical trial has identified a promising treatment: a drug called veliparib. Kaiser Permanente in Northern California is one of 202 sites in 10 countries participating in the trial.

Veliparib is one of a new class of a drugs, called PARP inhibitors, that can prevent cancer cells from repairing themselves after they’ve been damaged by other chemotherapy drugs. In the trial of 1,140 patients, veliparib in combination with first-line chemotherapy halted the progression of advanced stage ovarian cancer for 6 months to a year.

Michael Bookman, MD
Michael Bookman, MD

A research group co-led by Kaiser Permanente oncologist Michael A. Bookman, MD, with Kaiser Permanente oncologist Ramey Littell, MD, recently published these findings in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented their results at the European Society for Medical Oncology.

“Our goal was to take this new class of drugs and move it into the front-line setting for patients who are newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer to try to get maximum benefit from current chemotherapy treatments,” said Dr. Bookman, who serves as medical director of gynecologic oncology therapeutics for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. “We were able to show that remission could be extended significantly for all patients and subgroups, regardless of the cancer’s molecular or clinical features.”

While the impact of veliparib on overall survival has not yet been demonstrated, Dr. Bookman is optimistic about the results to date. “We believe that there’s a significant benefit to our patients for progression-free survival,” he said.