According to the American Cancer Society, more than
22,000 cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed this year,
and 15,000 women will die from it. More common in women
over 55, there is about a one in 69 chance that a woman
will contract ovarian cancer during her lifetime. Ovarian
cancer remains the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths
among women, and though it is a survivable disease, early
detection is vital.
If detected and treated before it spreads past the
ovaries, 93 percent of women will live longer than five
years. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of the cases
are caught before this crucial stage. Fewer than half of
women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive beyond
those five years.
Ovarian cancer frequently becomes resistant to standard
chemotherapy drugs, which is known as "chemoresistance."
Chemoresistance makes it difficult to successfully manage
and treat ovarian cancer.
A Proactive Approach Towards Detection
Although ovarian cancer was once coined "the silent
killer," today, increased knowledge regarding what symptoms
to look out for has made it easier for women to detect the
cancer in its earliest stages.
According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
(OCNA), some symptoms appear much more frequently in women
with ovarian cancer than other women. These symptoms
include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty
eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary problems such
as excessive urgency or frequency.
OCNA encourages women to see a doctor, preferably a
gynecologist, if they experience these symptoms almost
daily for more than a few weeks or simply feel abnormal.
Women with family histories that include cancer should be
especially alert to these types of changes in their bodies.
"Better safe than sorry" is the idea, and doctors will
conduct pelvic exams, blood tests and transvaginal
ultrasounds to look for ovarian cancer.
Once diagnosed, treatments vary widely. Depending on
what stage the cancer is in, treatments can include
surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or investigational
treatments in clinical trials. Phenoxodiol, one
investigational (experimental) drug researchers are
studying, is currently beginning Phase III of the clinical
trial process. Phenoxodiol, which has designated "Fast
Track" status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is
believed to help chemotherapy drugs, such as carboplatin,
kill chemoresistant cancer cells by removing factors in the
cells that block the killing action of chemotherapy. In
laboratory studies, phenoxodiol has demonstrated that
cancer cells pretreated with phenoxodiol were killed with
lower doses of chemotherapy drugs. Importantly, phenoxodiol
has been shown not to adversely affect normal cells in
animal and laboratory testing.
A clinical trial called "OVATURE," for OVArian TUmor
REsponse, is underway to evaluate the safety and
effectiveness of phenoxodiol. The trial, which aims to
recruit 470 patients, is being conducted at clinical sites
in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Researchers hope that
when used in conjunction with chemotherapy (carboplatin),
phenoxodiol will battle the cancer better than the
chemotherapy can on its own.
In 2007, the National Institutes of Health will invest
$106 million in ovarian cancer research. Yet despite
continual advances in medicine, ovarian and other cancers
remain difficult to detect and treat. It remains important
for women to be alert to changes in their bodies and
maintain a willingness to take action when something
doesn't feel right. While perhaps ovarian cancer can no
longer be called a "silent killer," it is still a quiet
one. Increased awareness and more research are keys to
helping women fight this deadly disease.