Non-chemotherapy drug combination could extend time between treatments for ovarian cancer patients

Results from a phase II randomised trial have shown that a combination of immunotherapy and a targeted therapy could extend time between treatments for some women with recurrent ovarian cancer.

Susana Banerjee, Consultant Medical Oncologist, wearing white jacket in Granard House Private Care reception area
Dr Susana Banerjee, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden

Patients were recruited from 12 sites in five countries to receive different combinations of the immunotherapy drug atezolizumab and targeted therapy bevacizumab, and bevacizumab with acetylsalicylic acid (‘aspirin’), or placebo.  

Bevacizumab stops tumours from growing their own blood vessels and can slow or shrink the cancer as a result. Atezolizumab works by blocking a protein that stops the immune system from working properly and attacking cancer cells.

Atezolizumab and bevacizumab in combination were shown to lead to a longer time between treatments for patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer (PROC) than those treated with bevacizumab alone. The addition of acetylsalicylic acid did not appear to improve the efficacy of treatment.

Ovarian cancer is classed as platinum-resistant when the disease returns within six months of being treated with platinum-based chemotherapies, for example carboplatin.

The EORTC-1508 trial data was presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Virtual Congress (ESMO) today (Friday 17 September 2021) by trial lead Dr Susana Banerjee, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Research Lead for the Gynaecology Unit at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Reader in Women’s Cancers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

She said: “Ovarian cancer patients whose disease returns within six months of chemotherapy currently have poor outcomes. More effective treatments beyond chemotherapy are urgently needed.

“These results show that, when given in combination, atezolizumab and bevacizumab could delay the time to the next cancer treatment. While further research is needed, this treatment could give patients more time before needing chemotherapy, which can come with debilitating side effects.

“We are now going to analyse patient samples from the study to understand which patients may benefit most and to identify potential predictive markers.”

The EORTC-1508 trial was sponsored by the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) with support from Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.