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Putting ovarian cancer into remission

For women already diagnosed with ovarian cancer, University of Minnesota researchers are finding better ways to help control their disease.

Some of the most promising developments in ovarian cancer treatment have taken place at the University, says Peter Argenta, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist and assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health.

“A lot of work around hormones and ovarian cancer is really starting to come to fruition,” he says.

That includes his own work. In a recently completed phase II clinical study at the University, Argenta and his colleagues found that a drug called fulvestrant showed promise in stabilizing ovarian cancer—with negligible side effects.

Estrogen is known to promote the growth of cancer cells in up to 90 percent of women with ovarian cancer. Fulvestrant, a so-called “estrogen receptor antagonist,” was shown to thwart estrogen receptors in women with recurrent ovarian or primary peritoneal cancer.

Twenty-six women participated in the study; about 90 percent experienced “stable or improved” quality of life at 90 days.

Argenta compares the drug’s potential to that of the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, with an important distinction: “This is exciting because it [appears to be] virtually without side effects,” he says.

“I don’t know that we’re close to being able to cure ovarian cancer, but it’s looking like we’re getting closer to putting a majority of [these cancers] in remission—and we may be able to stretch that period out indefinitely.”

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