Modified Chemo Regime Increases Survival In Advanced Ovarian Cancer Patients But Adds Toxicity

Women with advanced ovarian cancer lived longer and without their tumors growing after receiving a modified regimen of a standard chemotherapy drug combination, Japanese researchers reported last week. In a large phase III clinical trial, women who received carboplatin every 3 weeks and a reduced dose of paclitaxel (Taxol®) once a week for 3 weeks instead of carboplatin and a higher single dose of paclitaxel every 3 weeks had a 29 percent improvement in progression-free survival and a 25 percent improvement in overall survival after 3 years of follow-up.

Women with advanced ovarian cancer lived longer and without their tumors growing after receiving a modified regimen of a standard chemotherapy drug combination, Japanese researchers reported last week. In a large phase III clinical trial, women who received carboplatin every 3 weeks and a reduced dose of paclitaxel (Taxol®) once a week for 3 weeks instead of carboplatin and a higher single dose of paclitaxel every 3 weeks had a 29 percent improvement in progression-free survival and a 25 percent improvement in overall survival after 3 years of follow-up. The results were published online September 18 in The Lancet.

Although the toxicities of this dose-dense regimen were greater than they were in women who received the standard combination, survival benefits of this magnitude “have been rare in women with advanced ovarian cancer,” wrote Dr. Noriyuki Katsumata and colleagues from the Japanese Gynecologic Oncology Group (JGOG).

trimble

Edward L. Trimble, MD, MPH; Head - Gynecologic Cancer Therapeutics and Quality of Cancer Care Therapeutics, Clinical Investigation Branch, Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program, Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis.

The results, explained Dr. Ted Trimble, from NCI’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, are consistent with what has been seen in breast cancer using a dose-dense chemotherapy regimen. The idea, he continued, is “to balance efficacy and toxicity by using a weekly schedule rather than every 3 weeks.”

Although the findings are important, “they won’t change practice overnight,” Dr. Trimble said. There are still several significant unknowns, including whether a lower dose of paclitaxel might be as effective but less toxic; the optimal timing of surgery; and where intraperitoneal chemotherapy fits into the treatment mix. The JGOG trial results, however, will influence the design of a number of phase III clinical trials, all of which include dose-dense chemotherapy, he added.

More than 630 women at 85 hospitals across Japan enrolled in the trial. Patients were randomly assigned to either of the two treatment groups. After 3 years of follow-up, women who received the dose-dense treatment had a median progression-free survival of 28 months, compared with 17 months for those who received the standard treatment.

bookman

Michael A. Bookman, M.D., Chief, Hematology/Oncology Section, Arizona Cancer Center

Not enough time has passed to determine with statistical confidence whether the overall survival advantage will be maintained. However, in ovarian cancer, improvements in progression-free survival tend to predict overall survival, said Dr. Michael A. Bookman, chief of the Hematology/Oncology Section at the Arizona Cancer Center, in an accompanying editorial in The Lancet.

The dose-dense chemotherapy regimen used in the trial was also dose-intense, meaning the total dose of paclitaxel patients received was actually higher than in those who received standard treatment. This was associated with some toxic side effects that caused treatment delays and modifications and also led to patients receiving less caboplatin than intended. In fact, more than half of the women in the dose-dense group discontinued treatment early, and most of them did so because of the toxicity.

Although it’s possible that the dose intensity was responsible for the survival improvements, Dr. Bookman wrote, the more frequent, lower-dose treatment schedule is the most “plausible explanation.” As a result, “similar results might be achieved” with a lower dose, he concluded, “with improved tolerability.”

As for why the dose-dense approach is more effective than the standard approach, the Japanese researchers suggested that it hampers the formation of blood vessels that feed tumors. In animal model studies, dose-dense chemotherapy, like a similar treatment also under active investigation called metronomic chemotherapy, has been shown to have such an antiangiogenic effect. And in the JGOG trial, the researchers noted, tumor shrinkage following treatment did not differ between those receiving dose-dense chemotherapy and standard chemotherapy. This suggests that the dose-dense treatment “might promote tumor dormancy by maintaining tumor size and preventing outgrowth,” they wrote.

alvarez

Ronald Alvarez, M.D., Director, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, University of Alabama at Birmingham

The U.S.-based Gynecologic Oncology Group is planning to launch a phase III clinical trial in advanced ovarian cancer combining the dose-dense approach with the targeted antiangiogenic drug bevacizumab (Avastin), said Dr. Ronald Alvarez, director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This should help to confirm the Japanese trial’s results.

In the meantime, “Given the potential toxicity, clinicians should discuss with their patients the risks versus the benefits of this approach in comparison with other treatment strategies,” Dr. Alvarez said, particularly with those patients who have advanced disease and whose tumors could not be mostly eradicated by surgery.

Source: Modified Chemo Regimen Effective in Advanced Ovarian Cancer, by Carmen Phillips, NCI Cancer Bulletin Volume 6 / Number 18, National Cancer Institute, September 22, 2009.

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FDA Clears Vermillion’s “OVA1″ Test To Determine Likelihood of Ovarian Cancer In Women With Pelvic Mass

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared a test that can help detect ovarian cancer in a pelvic mass that is already known to require surgery. The test, called OVA1, helps patients and health care professionals decide what type of surgery should be done and by whom.

First Lab Test That Can Indicate Ovarian Cancer Prior To Biopsy Or Exploratory Surgery

U.S. Food & Drug Administration

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the OVA1™ Test, the first blood test that, prior to surgery, can help physicians determine if a woman is at risk for a malignant pelvic mass. OVA1 is the first FDA-cleared laboratory test that can indicate the likelihood of ovarian cancer with high sensitivity prior to biopsy or exploratory surgery, even if radiological test results fail to indicate malignancy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the OVA1™ Test [formerly, the Ovarian Tumor Triage Test], the first blood test that, prior to surgery, can help physicians determine if a woman is at risk for a malignant pelvic mass. OVA1 is the first FDA-cleared laboratory test that can indicate the likelihood of ovarian cancer with high sensitivity prior to biopsy or exploratory surgery, even if radiological test results fail to indicate malignancy. The test was developed by Vermillion, Inc. (formerly, Ciphergen Biosystems, Inc. ), a molecular diagnostics company, in cooperation with Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of cancer diagnostics. Quest Diagnostics, which is a long-time investor in research and development of the OVA1 technology, has exclusive rights to offer the test to the clinical reference laboratory market in the U.S. for three years.

“When combined with other clinical information, the OVA1 biomarker panel can help assess the likelihood of malignancy of an ovarian tumor before surgery and facilitate decisions about referral to a gynecologic oncologist,” said Frederick R. Ueland, M.D., principal investigator of the prospective, multi-center OVA1 clinical trial. Dr. Ueland is an associate professor gynecologic oncology at the University of Kentucky‘s Markey Cancer Center.

The OVA1 Test is an in vitro diagnostic multivariate index [assay] (IVDMIA) test that combines the results of five immunoassays using a proprietary unique algorithm to produce a single numerical score indicating a women’s likelihood of malignancy. The OVA1 Test provides a new option in the pre-operative evaluation to help physicians assess if a pelvic mass is benign or malignant in order to help determine whether to refer a woman to a gynecologic oncologist for surgery. Numerous clinical practice guidelines recommend that women with ovarian cancer be under the care of a gynecologic oncologist. However, only an estimated one third of women who undergo surgery for possible ovarian cancer are referred to these specialist surgeons for their surgery.(1)

Vermillion received the Society for Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO) Basic Science Poster Award for an abstract on the performance of its OVA1 Test presented at SGO’s 38th Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer in 2007. In reviewing the test application, the FDA evaluated results of a prospective, double-blind clinical trial which included 27 demographically mixed sites representative of institutions where ovarian tumor subjects may undergo a gynecological examination.

“Surgery in the hands of a gynecologic oncologist is usually associated with more favorable patient outcomes,” said Jon R. Cohen, M.D., chief medical officer and senior vice president, Quest Diagnostics. “Physicians often do not know if a woman’s pelvic mass is malignant or benign until she undergoes surgery. The OVA1 Test is the first FDA-cleared blood test to help clinicians determine whether to refer a woman to a gynecologic oncologist or have a gynecologic oncologist present at the time of surgery. We believe this test will help drive more favorable patient outcomes.”

“Unfortunately, advances in ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment are few and far between. It is fitting that September, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, marks FDA’s clearance of OVA1, a test that represents an important step forward toward improved outcomes,” said Gail S. Page, executive chairperson of the board of directors of Vermillion. “Quest Diagnostics had the foresight to recognize the potential value of this novel multivariate assay and supported its development. We look forward to collaborating to bring this new diagnostic option to the many women who will benefit from specialist care.”

Ueland

"When combined with other clinical information, the OVA1 biomarker panel can help assess the likelihood of malignancy of an ovarian tumor before surgery and facilitate decisions about referral to a gynecologic oncologist," said Frederick R. Ueland, M.D., principal investigator of the prospective, multi-center OVA1 clinical trial. Dr. Ueland is an associate professor gynecologic oncology at the University of Kentucky's Markey Cancer Center.

The FDA clearance of OVA1 makes Quest Diagnostics the only diagnostic testing company to offer FDA cleared tests for ovarian cancer in the pre- and post-surgical settings. In addition to offering the OVA1 Test, Quest Diagnostics was the first laboratory company to provide a new lab test that the FDA cleared in the third quarter of 2008 as an aid for monitoring for recurrence of epithelial ovarian cancer.

The OVA1 Test will be available for physician use in the fourth quarter of this year.

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths in women.(2) Approximately 21,600 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2009, and approximately 14,600 women will die of the disease.(3)

About the OVA1 Test

The OVA1 Test is a qualitative serum test that combines the results of five immunoassays into a single numerical score. It is indicated for women who meet the following criteria: over age 18, ovarian adnexal mass present for which surgery is planned, and not yet referred to an oncologist. The test utilizes five well-established biomarkers — Transthyretin (TT or prealbumin), Apolipoprotein A-1 (Apo A-1), Beta2-Microglobulin (Beta2M), Transferrin (Tfr) and Cancer Antigen 125 (CA 125 II) — and a proprietary algorithm to determine the likelihood of malignancy in women with pelvic mass for whom surgery is planned.

The OVA1 Test is an aid to further assess the likelihood that malignancy is present when the physician’s independent clinical and radiological evaluation does not indicate malignancy. The test should not be used without an independent clinical/radiological evaluation and is not intended to be a screening test or to determine whether a patient should proceed to surgery. Incorrect use of the OVA1 Test carries the risk of unnecessary testing, surgery, and/or delayed diagnosis.

About Vermillion

Vermillion, Inc. is dedicated to the discovery, development and commercialization of novel high-value diagnostic tests that help physicians diagnose, treat and improve outcomes for patients. Vermillion, along with its prestigious scientific collaborators, has diagnostic programs in oncology, hematology, cardiology and women’s health. Vermillion is based in Fremont, California. Additional information about Vermillion can be found on the Web at www.vermillion.com.

About Quest Diagnostics

Quest Diagnostics is the world’s leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services that patients and doctors need to make better healthcare decisions. The company offers the broadest access to diagnostic testing services through its network of laboratories and patient service centers, and provides interpretive consultation through its extensive medical and scientific staff. Quest Diagnostics is a pioneer in developing innovative diagnostic tests and advanced healthcare information technology solutions that help improve patient care. Additional company information is available at www.QuestDiagnostics.com.

(1) Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 98, No. 3, February 1, 2006

(2) Greenlee RT, Murray T, Bolden S, Wingo PA. Cancer statistics, 2000. CA Cancer J Clin. 2000;50(1):7-33

(3) 2009 American Cancer Society [Leading Sites of New Cancer Cases and Deaths—2009 Estimates]

Contacts:
Quest Diagnostics:
Media: Wendy Bost 973-520-2800
Investors: Kathleen Valentine 973-520-2900

Vermillion:
Jill Totenberg, he Totenberg Group Tel: 212 994 7363
jtotenberg@totenberggroup.com

Select FDA Comments:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today cleared a test that can help detect ovarian cancer in a pelvic mass that is already known to require surgery. The test, called OVA1, helps patients and health care professionals decide what type of surgery should be done and by whom.

OVA1 identifies some women who will benefit from referral to a gynecological oncologist for their surgery, despite negative results from other clinical and radiographic tests for ovarian cancer. If other test results suggest cancer, referral to an oncologist is appropriate even with a negative OVA1 result.

OVA1 should be used by primary care physicians or gynecologists as an adjunctive test to complement, not replace, other diagnostic and clinical procedures.

OVA1 uses a blood sample to test for levels of five proteins that change due to ovarian cancer. The test combines the five separate results into a single numerical score between 0 and 10 to indicate the likelihood that the pelvic mass is benign or malignant.

OVA1 is intended only for women, 18 years and older, who are already selected for surgery because of their pelvic mass. It is not intended for ovarian cancer screening or for a definitive diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Interpreting the test result requires knowledge of whether the woman is pre- or post-menopausal.

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Barack Obama Proclaims September 2009 As National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama designated September 2009 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month helps educate women and men about the importance of knowing the early warning signs and symptoms of the disease, scheduling routine doctor visits, and continuing robust scientific research.

Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama designated September 2009 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  The official proclamation issued by the White House is set forth below.  National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month helps educate women and men about the importance of knowing the early warning signs and symptoms, scheduling routine doctor visits, and continuing robust scientific research.

White House SealTHE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

______________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release August 31, 2009

NATIONAL OVARIAN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, 2009

- – - – - – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Ovarian cancer remains the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancer among women in the United States. Every year, thousands are diagnosed and go on to fight the disease with grace and dignity. National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month honors all those affected by this cancer and renews our commitment to fighting an illness that takes the lives of too many in our Nation.

Women are often diagnosed with ovarian cancer when it is already at an advanced stage. This problem can be attributed to a lack of effective early detection technologies and minimal or no specific symptoms associated with the disease. By learning more about risk factors and maintaining regular physician consultations, women have their best chance of early detection of ovarian cancer.

Science continues to expand our knowledge about this illness, promising hope to those who, years ago, would be without it. Through dedicated research, treatment outcomes have improved for many, and we are building a foundation for the development of evidence-based screening, which can help diagnose the disease at the earliest possible stage when the likelihood of cure is high.

This month we recommit to supporting the women who continue to battle valiantly against this malady as well as all families who are affected. National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month helps educate women and men about the importance of knowing common signs and symptoms, scheduling routine doctor visits, and continuing robust scientific research. As a Nation, we are united in our resolve to reduce incidence and improve the lives of all those affected.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2009 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage citizens, Government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other interested groups to join in activities that will increase awareness of what Americans can do to prevent and control ovarian cancer.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

BARACK OBAMA

Source: NATIONAL OVARIAN CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, 2009, By the President of the United States of America, A Proclamation, Office of the Press Secretary For The President of the United States of America, The White House, August 31, 2009.