New approaches for targeting platinum-resistant ovarian cancer

Semin Cancer Biol. 2021 Dec;77:167-181. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2020.08.013. Epub 2020 Aug 29.


Platinum is the backbone of systemic treatment in ovarian cancer and development of platinum resistance is associated with poor survival. Here, we perform a comprehensive review of the literature regarding resistance mechanisms and advances in therapy for platinum resistant ovarian cancer, with a focus on high-grade serous carcinoma. Platinum resistance can be intrinsic or acquired. Resistance mechanisms are complex and diverse. Intracellular mechanisms include restoration of homologous recombination repair, reduced intracellular accumulation of platinum, blocked cellular replication and inhibition of apoptosis. These act in concert with immunosuppressive, angiogenic and stromal changes in the tumour microenvironment to drive treatment resistance. Current molecular stratification lacks prognostic and predictive validity, limited in part by the extreme genomic complexity of high-grade serous ovarian cancer. Clinical trials represent an important option for patients as standard of care treatment options have limited efficacy. The most promising trials appear to focus on rational combinations of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, anti-angiogenics, PARP inhibitors, targeted therapy and/or antibody-drug conjugates. Resistance mechanisms are multifactorial with capacity to evolve over time, making clinical detection challenging. It is increasingly apparent that clinical trials must incorporate correlative studies to elucidate predictive biomarkers. They must also adopt endpoints that can appropriately measure benefit for palliative treatments. Future research must aim to deepen our understanding of the biology of this disease, and deliver meaningful benefit in terms of improved quality of life and overall survival for women with platinum resistant ovarian cancer.

Keywords: Biomarkers; Ovarian cancer; Platinum resistant; Resistance mechanisms; Therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / drug therapy*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Platinum Compounds


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Platinum Compounds