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Immunotherapy for Ovarian Cancer
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What Makes Immunotherapy a Promising Treatment for Ovarian Cancer?

Reviewed By: Kunle Odunsi, M.D., Ph.D.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

The leading cause of death from gynecologic cancer in the United States, ovarian cancer affects more than 22,000 women each year, with over 14,000 deaths resulting from the disease. Known as "the cancer that whispers," ovarian cancer often progresses greatly before any symptoms are detected in the patient. The most prominent risk factor for this disease is a family history that includes breast or ovarian cancer, with an especially increased risk for women testing positive for the inherited mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

While significant advances have been made in the surgical and chemo-based treatments for ovarian cancer, the survival rates for this disease have only modestly improved. Many women affected by advanced ovarian cancer often see a positive response to chemotherapy, but effects are not typically long-lasting. In fact, more than 80% of ovarian cancer patients experience recurrent disease, and more than 50% of these patients die from the disease in less than five years post-diagnosis.

Given the grave outlook for patients with ovarian cancer, there is an urgent need for revolutionary new treatment methods for advanced stage, recurring ovarian cancer. One immunotherapy is already approved for ovarian cancer patients, the targeted antibody bevacizumab. Patients with platinum-resistant, recurrent ovarian cancer, or all stages of ovarian cancer above stage I/grade I, should consider entering into immunotherapy clinical trials.

Many monoclonal antibodies, checkpoint inhibitors and immune modulators, therapeutic vaccines, adoptive T cell transfer, oncolytic viruses, and adjuvant immunotherapies are in early phase testing for ovarian cancer, but show significant promise for treating this deadly gynecologic cancer.

Are you a patient or caregiver interested in learning more about cancer immunotherapy treatment and clinical trials? If so, visit our Patient section on immunotherapy for ovarian cancer.

CRI's Impact on Ovarian Cancer

Since 1985, our organization has dedicated more than $21 million in grant funding to the scientific research and treatment development for ovarian cancer. CRI-funded scientists have further developed the evidence that the presence of T cells in ovarian tumors is strongly correlated with an improved survival rate of ovarian cancer patients—demonstrating that immunotherapies improving the frequency of killer T cells had a better chance of survival.

Findings from leading scientists in the field of immunology research provide potential and promise for the future of immune-based treatment for patients with ovarian cancers—bringing hope and optimism for more lifesaving therapies for this formidable disease.

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