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Ovarian Cancer Continues to Challenge Researchers - Multinational Clinical Trial Underway

By Jonathan David



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.

For more information on the OVATURE trial, visit http://www.OVATUREtrial.com


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