HEALTH

A new chance for a fighting chance against ovarian cancer

Sep 27, 2022, 4:30 PM | Updated: 5:52 pm
ovarian cancer...
The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Jordan Allred/Deseret News)
(Jordan Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Huntsman Cancer Institute is testing a way to stop deaths from ovarian cancer.

“Without having good screening, what we’re really faced against is trying to see if we can diagnose it earlier, and if we can’t, coming up with better treatments than the ones we’ve had for the past couple decades,” said Dr. Theresa Werner, Senior Director of Clinical Research at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Werner joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic this week to talk about their efforts.

This year, and every year, nearly 13,000 women will die of ovarian cancer. The American Cancer Society says that an American woman’s risk of getting ovarian cancer is one in 78.

Out of all of the possibilities, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says it is the second most common gynecological cancer in the U.S. There is no screening for this type of cancer.

What may be most alarming about ovarian cancer is that the symptoms are there, but they are quiet and can be mistaken for something else. Those symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, and cramping.

A new class of medicine

One of the new treatments for ovarian cancer is a PARP inhibitor.

“It’s an oral medication that’s much more targeted than chemotherapies,” Werner said. “What we’re doing in cancer research is trying to find more targeted treatments that are really specific for certain types of cancers.”

Werner said researchers have been testing these types of inhibitors for a decade. Subjects generally include women who had ovarian cancer in the past and who are experiencing a relapse. Werner said that a PARP inhibitor has been helpful in this instance, and because of that success, they’re now testing the drug earlier.

“The consensus data really shows that women who were able to take these medications after chemotherapy are living longer and going a longer time before their cancer (comes) back,” Werner said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several PARP inhibitors. Werner said they are usually prescribed for two years after a patient’s initial cancer has gone into remission. The inhibitors can be prescribed for longer periods of time for women who are experiencing a recurrence of ovarian cancer.

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