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New Insights, Inroads Against Breast, Ovarian Cancers
Date:5/31/2009

Once-promising ovarian cancer test loses luster, but new breast tumor treatments called 'exciting'

SUNDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- "It's nice to be here. It's nice to be anywhere," singer and actress Olivia Newton-John, a self-described 17-year breast cancer "thriver," told reporters at one of the world's largest gatherings of cancer specialists on Sunday.

Newton-John, 60, spoke at a special news briefing on advances and insights in breast and gynecologic cancers, part of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

"I'm very excited about what is going on in the world of cancer treatment," she said. "I feel so fortunate that I can spread the message to other women by saying 'Here I am, 17 years later.'"

But as with every such gathering, researchers delivered both good news and bad news in the war against cancer.

On the bad news front, one study presented at the briefing found that use of the CA125 biomarker to track ovarian cancer did not help guide treatment decisions for women.

Ovarian cancer remains one of the most deadly malignancies primarily because it is typically spotted too late for treatment to be effective. Recently, however, some doctors have turned to blood levels of a molecule called CA125 to screen for the presence of disease, with repeat screens after treatment to gauge the likelihood of a recurrence.

But the new study found that even when CA125 indicated the possibility of cancer relapse and spread, starting additional treatment early did not enhance a woman's survival versus waiting longer for second-line treatment.

For this study, 265 women whose ovarian cancer was in remission after one round of chemotherapy began a second round of chemo as soon as their CA125 levels started to rise. Another 264 women waited until actual signs of a relapse appeared until they began second-line therapy.

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