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

t that, "patients who were in the early treatment arm started their second-line chemotherapy (based on rising CA125 levels) 4.8 months earlier than those who had waited till signs and symptoms," study author Dr. Gordon Rustin, a professor of oncology at Mount Vernon Cancer Center in Hertfordshire, U.K. , told reporters.

But average overall survival was the same, whether treatment had been guided by CA125 levels or not: 41 months from the completion of the first course of therapy.

"Even more interestingly, the time to third-line therapy was 4.6 months earlier in the earlier-on group," he added. "This indicated that the early initiation of chemotherapy did not induce a longer remission and, despite all this early treatment, did not improve survival."

On the plus side, the findings suggest that rising CA125 levels may not be as dire a marker as once thought, according to the researchers. "For the first time, women can be reassured that there's no benefit from early detection from routine CA125 and they can be told that even if CA125 rises, chemotherapy can be safely delayed until they have signs or symptoms of recurrence," Rustin said. "For the first time ever, women now have informed choices to be able to decide [on testing]. Most of my patients, when given this information, do not want routine CA125 measurements."

The study strikes yet another blow to the notion that CA125 might be the reliable ovarian cancer test everyone is looking for. For example, research published in the April issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that combining the CA125 test with transvaginal ultrasound did not help detect ovarian cancer.

The new results may only reinforce that skepticism. "We've put that one [CA125 screening] in the grave so many times it has a zombie-like existence," said Dr. Kelly Marcom, a breast oncologist with Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and director of the Duke Hereditary Cancer Clinic in D
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