Other Treatments for Ovarian Cancer

Some of the following therapies are still in experimental stages and may be available by participating in a clinical trial. Although they have shown some promise, there is no conclusive evidence they slow or stop disease progression, or prolong life in everyone. Talk to your doctor to see if any of these treatments would be right for you.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy uses specific medications to seek out and destroy cancer cells or systems that support the cancer cells. For example, medications can be used to stop the growth of new blood vessels that enhance tumor growth. Targeted therapy may include:

  • Bevacizumab—prevents blood vessel growth in tumors
  • Olaparib—interferes with cell division in women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations

Common side effects include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Joint and/or muscle pain

Hormonal Therapy

Some ovarian cancers are hormone-sensitive. Hormones are able to bind to cancer cells, which stimulate growth and division. Hormone therapy inhibits this process by preventing certain hormones from binding to cancer cells. Hormone therapy may include:

  • Tamoxifen to block the effects of estrogen
  • Aromatase inhibitors to block the production of estrogen
  • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists to lower estrogen levels by blocking the hormonal effects of the ovaries

Common side effects include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Joint and/or muscle pain
  • Bone thinning, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis
  • Blood clots (tamoxifen)

Immunotherapy    TOP

Immunotherapy, or biological response modifier therapy, involves using medications to boost the effects of the body's immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. Immunotherapy may include:

  • Farletuzumab—Targets a specific receptor found on the outside of some ovarian cancer cells.
  • Catumaxomab—Targets specific proteins found in ovarian cancer cells or immune system cells. It can also help decrease the build up of fluid in the abdomen (ascites)
  • Vaccines—Bacteria or viruses used to produce an immune system response.

Common side effects include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Pain

Fertility Preservation    TOP

Most of the treatments for ovarian cancer can affect fertility. If you wish to have children, talk with your doctor and your family about options before treatment. There are many options available, including harvesting and preserving eggs for the future or organ-sparing surgery. Organ-sparing surgery can preserve an ovary, a fallopian tube, and the uterus if ovarian cancer is in its earliest stages.

Fertility preservation may not work for everyone. Harvesting an egg may cause cancer cells to spread to nearby structures and organ-sparing surgery may not be an option with advanced stage cancer.

References:

Hormone therapy for ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/treating/hormone-therapy.html. Updated February 4, 2016. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Ovarian cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900705/Ovarian-cancer. Updated November 17, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Ovarian cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated March 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Sexuality for the woman with cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects/sexuality-for-women-with-cancer.html. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Targeted therapy for ovarian cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/treating/targeted-therapy.html. Updated September 8, 2017. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/ovarian/patient/ovarian-epithelial-treatment-pdq#section/_156. Updated November 3, 2016. Accessed January 29, 2018.
Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 11/14/2016

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