Targeted therapy for ovarian cancer
Targeted therapy drugs can get inside cancer cells and block specific particles (molecules) that tell the cancer cells to grow. These drugs are used to treat some types of ovarian cancer. They may also be used in certain situations (e.g. if chemotherapy has not been successful). Genetic testing will help show if you have a particular faulty gene that may respond to targeted therapy drugs.
Learn more about:
- Which drugs are used for ovarian cancer?
- Side effects of targeted therapy
- Immunotherapy for ovarian cancer
- Video: What is targeted therapy?
Listen to our podcast on New Cancer Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy
Which drugs are used for ovarian cancer?
Bevacizumab is a targeted therapy drug sometimes used to treat advanced epithelial tumours. It is given with chemotherapy every three weeks as a drip into a vein (intravenous infusion).
Olaparib is a targeted therapy drug occasionally used for ovarian cancer. You may be offered this if you have a high-grade epithelial ovarian cancer that has come back after initial treatment and has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. This drug is usually given after chemotherapy to help stop the cancer growing. It is taken as a tablet twice a day for as long as it appears to be helping control the cancer. This is known as maintenance treatment.
Other targeted therapy drugs may be available on clinical trials. Talk with your doctor about the latest developments and whether you are a suitable candidate.
Side effects of targeted therapy
Although targeted therapy minimises harm to healthy cells, it can still have side effects. It is important to discuss any side effects with your doctor right away. If left untreated, some can become life-threatening. Your doctor will monitor you throughout treatment.
The most common side effects of bevacizumab include bleeding, wound-healing problems, high blood pressure and kidney problems. In very rare cases, small tears (perforations) may develop in the bowel wall.
The most common side effects of olaparib include nausea, fatigue, vomiting and low blood cell counts. More serious side effects include bone marrow or lung problems.
For more on this, see our general section on Targeted therapy.
Immunotherapy for ovarian cancerImmunotherapy is a type of drug treatment that uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. In Australia, immunotherapy drugs are currently available as treatment options for some types of cancer, such as melanoma and lung cancer. At present, immunotherapy has not been proven to be an effective treatment for ovarian cancer.
International clinical trials are continuing to test immunotherapy drugs for ovarian cancer. You can ask your treatment team for the latest updates.
For more on this, see our general section on Immunotherapy.
Video: What is targeted therapy?
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists, TAS; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Sonja Kingston, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Judy Kirk, Head, Familial Cancer Service, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Support Team, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Emily Stevens, Gynaecology Oncology Nurse Coordinator, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Amy Vassallo, Fussell Family Foundation Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Merran Williams, Consumer.
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