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Study Shows New Drug Combination Is A Better Treatment for Ovarian Cancer

ATLANTA (May 16, 1999) -- A landmark study shows that a new drug combination, paclitaxel (Taxol) and carboplatin (Paraplatin), is better for the chemotherapy treatment of advanced ovarian cancer because it is significantly less toxic for patients. The combination also proved to maintain the high level efficacy of paclitaxel-based chemotherapy. This phase III, multi-centered study conducted by the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) was presented this weekend at the 35th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

"There were concerns that carboplatin would be less effective when compared to cisplatin, the drug that had been previously used with paclitaxel," explained Robert F. Ozols, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Medical Science at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, Pa. "Not only does this study prove that carboplatin is at least as effective as cisplatin, but it presents fewer troublesome side effects for patients. Toxic side effects such as nausea and weight loss are decreased."

In addition to proving carboplatin as the preferred choice to be used in combination with paclitaxel in the treatment of ovarian cancer, the study also confirms that these agents can safely and effectively be administered over a three-hour infusion period. Previously, the paclitaxel/cisplatin compound was administered over 24 hours requiring a hospital stay.

The paclitaxel/carboplatin regimen was well tolerated and also resulted in significant decreases in side effects when compared to patients receiving the paclitaxel/cisplatin combination. Patients receiving paclitaxel/carboplatin experienced fewer gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and metabolic effects such as nausea, vomiting, weight-loss and kidney damage. The decrease in toxicity was not associated with any decrease in efficacy.

The GOG 158 study randomized 808 patients to receive either carboplatin plus paclitaxel administered by a 3-hour infusion or cisplatin plus paclitaxel administered by a 24-hour infusion. This trial was designed as a follow-up study to the GOG 111 study.

The landmark GOG 111 study, completed in 1996, showed that the median survival time of women with advanced ovarian cancer was extended by over 50 percent when patients received paclitaxel plus cisplatin as first-line chemotherapy. The paclitaxel -based regimen in the study extended median survival to 37.5 months, compared to 24.4 months with the standard cisplatin/cyclophosphamide combination, adding a median of 13 more months to patients' lives.

This large, well-controlled GOG study represented the first trial in 15 years, since cisplatin was developed and incorporated as the initial therapy of ovarian cancer, that showed a notable improvement in survival for ovarian cancer.

Over 25,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 14,500 women will die from ovarian cancer in 1999, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society. Ovarian cancer accounts for four percent of all cancers among women and ranks second among gynecological cancers. Ovarian cancer is the most deadly cancer of the female reproductive system. The five-year relative survival rate for all stages is 50 percent.

The risk for ovarian cancer increases with age and peaks when women are in their seventies. Other risk factors include women who have never had children, family history, and a hereditary genetic syndrome most frequently associated with mutations in tumor suppressor genes BRCA-1 and BRCA-2.

GOG 158 was coordinated by the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG), a national organization dedicated to clinical research in the field of gynecologic cancer. The purpose of the GOG is to improve the treatment of gynecologic cancer. These goals are addressed through research encompassing surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, pathology, immunology and/or gynecologic nursing. To promote this mission, the GOG receives support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which is the parent organization for GOG.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 35 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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