Ovarian cancer treatment: New guidelines reflect better outcomes

March 12, 2015 | by Nicole White

In 1975, the median survival for patients with ovarian cancer was about 12 months. Today, the median survival is more than 5 years.

 

ovaries and ovarian cancer Cancer of the ovaries, illustrated here on the left and right, is, in fact, a treatable illness. Newly released ovarian cancer treatment guidelines highlight just how much progress has been made. City of Hope's Robert Morgan has been instrumental in establishing guidelines for best possible treatment.

 

Although researchers and clinicians are far from satisfied, the progress in ovarian cancer treatment is encouraging, said Robert Morgan, M.D., F.A.C.P., professor of medical oncology in the Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research at City of Hope. Morgan is also chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s Guidelines Panel for Ovarian Cancer, which recently released its 20th annual edition of the guidelines.

“This is a very treatable illness,” Morgan said. “I’m frustrated that I still hear from women who are diagnosed and told to get their affairs in order. That’s exactly the wrong advice. Much of the time, these patients are curable.”

In fact, ovarian cancer responds to drug treatment as often as 90 percent of the time. While fewer than 40 percent of women are cured, overall survival is improving – and so are treatments.{C}

One of most significant improvements in treatment options is the availability of intraperitoneal chemotherapy. In this treatment, chemotherapy is delivered to the abdominal cavity and allowed to wash over the linings in the abdomen. This allows for more direct contact with any cancer cells that were not removed during surgery.

“IP chemo can be very effective, and you need a team with the ability, knowledge and skill to do it,” Morgan said.

 

Robert Morgan, M.D. is chair of the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Ovarian Cancer. Robert Morgan, M.D. is chair of the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Ovarian Cancer.

 

Another major change since the first guidelines were released in 1996 involves the surgical principles for ovarian cancer treatment. The role of surgery was initially debated, but now surgery to remove residual disease is recommended for virtually all patients.

Currently, there is no tool for screening for ovarian cancer, meaning the disease can't be detected early – one of the it's so difficult to treat. Symptoms include bloating and abdominal pain, but they're so common that many patients don't recognize them as ovarian cancer symptoms.

“We have many drugs that work for this illness, and they have gotten so much better over the years,” Morgan said. “Many patients don’t know that. It is a very complex illness, and you need someone who specializes specifically in ovarian cancer to get the best possible treatment."

The NCCN guidelines play a significant role in ensuring that women get the best possible treatment.

“NCCN is proud to have played a role in the advancement treatment of women with ovarian cancer since the first NCCN Guidelines were published in 1996,” said Robert W. Carlson, M.D., chief executive officer of the NCCN, in a release about the updated guidelines. “We applaud Dr. Morgan and panel for their decades of service and dedication to improving the outcomes for women with such a deadly disease.”

** Learn more about ovarian cancer treatment and ovarian cancer research at City of Hope.

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Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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