Women's Health

Many with Ovarian Cancer Try Maintenance Therapy to Buy Time

Many with Ovarian Cancer Try Maintenance Therapy to Buy Time

Maintenance therapy is known as the treatment of cancer with medication. It is a type of medical therapy that is typically followed by an initial round of treatment. It may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy or hormone therapy. Maintenance therapy is used to slow down the growth of progressive cancer following an initial round of treatment, as well as slow down or prevent cancer from returning once a patient is in complete remission. “When it comes to more common solid tumors like breast, colorectal, or ovarian, the goal of initial treatment is to get the disease under control so it’s not causing symptoms or discomfort and, more than that, to prolong survival. Having said that, you can’t keep patients with these cancers in remission without continued treatment, and that’s the whole idea behind maintenance therapy,” said Dennis Citrin, medical oncologist affiliated with the Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, Illinois.

What can ovarian cancer patients gain from maintenance therapy?

So, what do patients with primary and recurrent ovarian cancer expect to gain from undergoing maintenance therapy? a recent survey following around 1,950 participants revealed that a majority of them choose to undergo maintenance therapy because they were trying to buy time – at the very least 6 months delay in the progression of cancer.

Around 67% of the patients were aged 51-70, 49.6% were diagnosed with primary ovarian cancer, 36.3% were diagnosed with recurrent ovarian cancer, and for 6.9%, the stage of their cancer remained unknown. According to Jalid Sehouli, medical director of the Department of Gynecology from the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Berlin, Germany; maintenance therapy is based upon the understanding that after undergoing chemotherapy and surgery, patients with ovarian cancer have a 60-70% chance of recurrence within 2 years.

Age and medication did not influence preferences

While results from clinical trials are showing great promise, medical guidelines are still under development. “We wondered what was important in choosing to undergo maintenance therapy and decided to ask the patients themselves” said Prof. Dr. Sehouli.

The results of the survey showed that the participants with ovarian cancer portrayed similar responses, regardless of their age, stage of their cancer, type of cancer (primary or recurrent), as well as reason for undergoing maintenance therapy (to delay their progression of cancer or improve their quality of life). 64.3% of the participants revealed that they were currently undergoing treatment and of that percent, 29.3% were undergoing maintenance therapy. Moreover, 81.7% of the participants revealed that they did not live alone and 61.4% said that they took tablets for comorbidities on a daily basis. “Comedication and patient age do not seem to negatively influence patients’ preference towards maintenance therapy,” said Prof. Dr. Sehouli.

The researchers found that the ages of the patients, their living situations, and whether they had undergone any prior surgery did not influence their decision to undergo maintenance therapy. However, the majority of patients receiving maintenance therapy were in stage 3 or 4 of recurrent cancer. Whereas no difference was seen between younger and older patients receiving chemotherapy for their cancer, fewer older patients (ages 70 and older) choose to undergo surgery. Additionally, this group of older patients were more likely to live alone and take tablets for commodities on a daily basis.

Read on to learn more about the results of the survey and what they mean for ovarian cancer maintenance therapy.