Chemotherapy is usually the first treatment for most women with ovarian cancer. Chemotherapy works by interrupting the growth of cancer cells. It is given either to shrink cancer cells before surgery, or to destroy any tumor cells that might be left behind after surgery. Usually chemotherapy is injected into the vein. In some cases, heated chemotherapy can also be delivered into the peritoneal cavity (abdominal area) during surgery.
At Memorial Sloan Kettering, we tailor the type of chemotherapy we recommend to each woman based on such factors as the type and stage of her cancer. We also make adjustments along the way as we assess whether the tumor is responding. Today we also have options that include targeted drugs, which are often effective in identifying and attacking cancer cells while basically sparing normal cells.
Targeted Therapies for Ovarian Cancer
While each type of targeted therapy works differently, all attack the inner workings of cancer cells – the so-called programming that makes them different from normal, healthy cells. Our doctors analyze the molecular profile of each person’s tumor to recommend a personalized treatment plan involving targeted therapy and/or chemotherapy.
Targeted therapies used in the initial treatment of ovarian cancer include:
Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors
PARP inhibitors are oral drugs that help fight cancers caused by inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, as well as other genetic alterations that can impair a cell’s ability to repair DNA. They exploit the weakness of tumor cells to repair DNA by blocking PARP-1, an enzyme that is important for cancer cells to survive and grow.
Bevacizumab is a targeted therapy that is given as an infusion into the vein and blocks the growth of blood vessels that supply and nourish the tumor.