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Combo Therapy Boosts Ovarian Cancer Survival

Jan 26th 2014 at 10:35 PM

Women with recurrent ovarian cancer who are treated with a drug called decitabine before undergoing chemotherapy and a cancer vaccine fare better than those who receive a single therapy alone, new research has found.

According to a new study published in the journal Cancer Immunology Research and reported by Medical News Today, the combination of "chemoimmunotherapy" could give patients with ovarian cancer a new treatment option for the often fatal disease.

The research, led by Kunle Odunsi, M.D., of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, indicates the combination boosts the immune system's ability to target a tumor antigen — a foreign protein present in cancer cells — called NY-ESO-1.

Dr. Odunsi said NY-ESO-1 is "one of the few tumor antigens that have restricted expression in normal tissues but become aberrantly expressed in epithelial ovarian cancers and other solid tumors."

The team recruited 12 women with epithelial ovarian cancer who did not benefit from multiple chemotherapy treatments. The women were given various doses of the drug decitabine and tracked to see if the medication would reprogram NY-ESO-1 and therefore trigger "vaccine-induced immunity."

Doxorubicin — a chemotherapy drug — was also given to the women after a week, while a cancer vaccine — made up of the NY-ESO-1 protein, montanide, known to boost the immune system and other proteins — after two weeks.

At the end of the study, more than half of the women were found to benefit and lived longer than expected.

"Although clinical results were not a focus of this phase I trial, we saw evidence of clinical benefit in up to 60 percent of the patients with chemotherapy-resistant tumors," Dr. Odunsi said. "The combination of [decitabine], chemotherapy, and cancer vaccine may have enabled this remarkable effect."

Based on their findings, Dr. Odunsi said patients with ovarian cancer should "actively seek" similar combination therapies.

"Even though the majority of these types of therapies are experimental at this point, there is enough scientific and clinical evidence to indicate that they are likely to be beneficial," he added.

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