Advance in Ovarian Cancer Research at Georgia Health Sciences University

OVARIAN CANCER RESEARCH. A new strategy that takes advantage of ovarian cancer’s reliance on folate appears to give relapse patients extra months of life with few side effects, according to Georgia Health Sciences University researchers.
The therapy uses the folate receptors on cancer cells as a sort of front door by pairing a ligand with an affinity for the receptors with a chemotherapeutic agent that is too toxic to be given systemically, said Dr. Sharad Ghamande, a chief of the Section of Gynecology Oncology at GHSU.
Large numbers of folate receptors typically correlate with the most aggressive ovarian cancers, and a variety of other cancers such as breast, lung and kidney.
The combination, called EC145, delivers a Vinca alkaloid directly inside cancer cells, improving effectiveness while reducing side effects particularly in women who overexpress folate receptors. A similar approach of pairing the folate ligand with a drug that makes those receptors glow, allows physicians to determine how many folate receptors are present and who would be the best candidates for this treatment.
Platinum-based drugs are the standard of care for ovarian cancer, which is typically diagnosed in the late stages because there is no good screening test, such as the Pap smear for cervical cancer.
After surgery and a round of chemotherapy, most women go into remission, but it’s usually short-lived: about 70 percent of patients relapse within two years. Physicians often pair chemotherapeutic agents with biologic agents that bolster the immune response to try to improve outcomes. When women relapse or become platinum-resistant, they receive the chemotherapeutic agent Doxil. The study compared women receiving Doxil to those reciving Doxil and EC145. Researchers found those with the most folate receptors on their cancer cells benefited the most from the new therapy.

Atlanta Business Chronicle. November 4-10, 2011. Urvaksh Karkaria.