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New Clues to Treating Ovarian Cancer Relapse
Date:10/1/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- New research finds that women with ovarian cancer relapse who start chemotherapy as soon as levels of a biomarker for the cancer rise don't live significantly longer than women who wait until symptoms begin to reappear.

Blood levels of the marker, known as CA125, often precede the reappearance of symptoms in an ovarian cancer relapse, but there has been some debate on the usefulness of monitoring CA125 levels.

"I think the main outcome of this study is going to be to give people confidence that we're not compromising anybody's treatment [if we delay chemotherapy]," said Dr. Andrew Berchuck, director of the division of gynecologic oncology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

And the test cost is miniscule (about $50) compared to tens of thousands of dollars for many other tests, he added.

When the results of the study were first released at a large cancer gathering, The Society of Gynecologic Oncologists issued a statement saying that "although there may not presently be a major survival advantage to the use of CA125 monitoring for earlier diagnosis of recurrence, patients and their physicians should still have the opportunity to choose this approach as integral to a philosophy of active management that includes participation in trials of novel therapies. Other patients, particularly those with a less robust performance status, might be more suitable for watchful waiting with an emphasis on quality of life."

This paper, the first randomized trial to look at the timing of chemo in women with recurring ovarian cancer, appears in the Oct. 2 issue of The Lancet, a special themed issue on cancer.

The study involved 529 women who were in remission from ovarian cancer and who were having their CA125 levels checked every three months.

Participants were randomized either to have chemotherapy early
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