Thalidomide, a drug banned in the 1950s for causing birth defects, is showing promise as a safe and effective treatment for women with recurrent ovarian cancer, according to a new study.
In the study, led by Levi Downs, Jr., M.D., assistant professor and a researcher of gynecologic oncology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and Cancer Center, Phase II clinical trial was randomized.
"For some women, ovarian cancer has become a chronic disease. The standard chemotherapy regimens can put recurrent cancer in remission, often more than once. However, when the cancer resists the standard treatments, we need new options for treatment," Downs said.
The study compared the effectiveness and safety of the combination of thalidomide and topotecan, a chemotherapy often used for ovarian cancer, versus topotecan alone for treatment of recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer in patients who had received prior treatment.
Epithelial ovarian cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissue that covers the ovary.
In the study, 75 women were evaluated who were randomly assigned to receive either the combination of thalidomide and topotecan or only topotecan.
"We found that patients who received topotecan plus thalidomide showed an overall response rate of 47 percent compared to 21 percent response in patients who received only topotecan. In patients receiving topotecan plus thalidomide, 30 percent achieved a complete response, meaning the cancer went away, compared to 18 percent for patients only getting topotecan," Downs said.
"Furthermore, patients getting topotecan plus thalidomide had a longer cancer-free period after treatment than those receiving topotecan alone. What all of this means is that while thalidomide may not cure ovarian cancer, it may broaden the treatment options available to physicians and provide more hope to women diagnosed with the cancer," Downs added.
The study has been published in the journal Cancer.