Emerging drugs for ovarian cancer

Expert Opin Emerg Drugs. 2005 May;10(2):413-24. doi: 10.1517/14728214.10.2.413.


Because most patients presenting with advanced ovarian cancer are not curable by surgery alone, chemotherapy represents an essential component of treatment. The disease may be considered as chemosensitive, as in around three-quarters of patients major (complete) responses are seen to initial treatment with the platinum-containing drugs cisplatin and carboplatin either used alone or in combination with the taxane, paclitaxel. However, only 15-20% of patients experience long-term remission as tumours often become resistant. The probability of achieving a second response depends on the duration of remission after first-line therapy: if this is < 6 months (considered as platinum resistant) second responses are uncommon and usually short-lived; if this is > 6, and especially if > 12 months (platinum sensitive), responses may be seen in about a quarter of patients, to the same drugs as used first line or to drugs such as pegylated liposomal doxorubicin, topotecan and hexamethylmelamine (all three are approved in this setting by the FDA). Gemcitabine, oral etoposide, docetaxel and oxaliplatin also show some activity either in sequential addition to existing approved of first-line therapy (as with gemcitabine) or as second-line therapy. However, there is an urgent unmet clinical need for new drugs capable of prolonging survival either by increasing long-term remission rates and/or duration as first-line treatment or to improve on outcomes of second-line treatment. Strategies currently being exploited in clinical trials include attempts to deliver more killing selectively to tumours (e.g., intraperitoneal administration of cisplatin or radiolabelled monoclonal antibodies), agents designed to target drug resistance mechanisms (e.g., TLK-286 activated by glutathione transferase), agents targeting proteins/receptors shown to be selectively expressed in the disease (e.g., monoclonal antibodies recognising CA-125 or HER1; small molecules targeting HER1 such as gefitinib) and disrupting established tumour vasculature (e.g., 5,6-dimethyl xanthenone 4-acetic acid). At the pre-clinical level, agents being developed to target the phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase/AKT/mTOR pathway, and K-Ras inhibitors, may offer efficacy in the future.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / trends
  • Drug Industry / trends*
  • Drugs, Investigational / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Drugs, Investigational