A doctor at the OU Health Sciences Center and OU Cancer Institute is directing a nationwide clinical trial to study treatments for ovarian cancer.
Dr. Joan Walker, gynecologic oncologist, is leading the trial for the Gynecological Oncology Group. The trial tests three different treatments for effectiveness in fighting ovarian cancer, which has one of the highest mortality rates of gynecological cancers, according to a press release.
One part of the trial tests the use of chemotherapy delivered through the stomach cavity, where tumors are most often located, Walker said. The trial also looks at the same drug delivered through the veins, the current method. The final part is a study of a drug given in small weekly doses, rather than the usual large, monthly doses.
“We will be comparing these different regiments in women with later stages of ovarian cancer to see if we can improve outcomes,” Walker said in a press release. “We are hopeful that we can both reduce side effects and complications by our advances, as well as improve survival beyond five years.”
Walker said current survival rates are difficult to say because they vary in different countries. U.S. survival rates are usually very low, but patients who participate in research trials such as this one usually have longer rates. Rates are often poor because doctors do not detect the cancer early enough.
“There is a failure to come in to the doctor,” Walker said. “Also, the physician might not recognize the symptoms and confuse it with something else. It may take three months if the physician gets confused. That conflicts with treatment.”
Besides improving survival rates, Walker said the trial will also improve the quality of life for patients receiving chemotherapy. Doctors will survey patients undergoing the different treatments and post results about which ones patients liked most, as well as which ones were most effective.
Currently, 200 patients are enrolled nationally, Walker said. The trial needs 1,200 people total.
Walker recently finished another study on surgery techniques for uterine cancers, she said. According to a press release, the study lasted a decade.
In this trial, Walker said doctors found that using laparoscopic surgery reduced the amount of time patients had to spend in the hospital after a surgery by half, improving their quality of life. It also decreased the number of complications during and after surgery.
Laparoscopic surgery involves making a small incision and using a camera.
“It is quite astounding as a physician to go to see your patient the next morning and find that she is sitting up, ready to go home,” Walker said in a press release. “This is quite different than the traditional open surgery, where patients cannot go home for four days.”
Walker presented these findings last week at the Gynecologic Oncologists’ annual meeting in San Francisco.
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