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Early Detection Remains Key in Updated NCCN Guidelines for Ovarian Cancer


New updates to the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology™ for Ovarian Cancer were presented at the NCCN 14th Annual Conference on March 14. Notable additions to the NCCN Guidelines are a section on managing allergic reactions to chemotherapy agents and new agents for recurrence therapy. Robert J. Morgan, MD, of City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center presented the updated NCCN Guidelines that continue to stress early detection of ovarian cancer and the enrollment of patients in clinical trials.


March 16, 2009

HOLLYWOOD, FL — Improvements in screening and early detection remains the key for women with ovarian cancer according to Robert J. Morgan, MD, of City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center and chair of the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Ovarian Cancer. Dr. Morgan discussed the future of ovarian cancer and notable changes to the recently updated NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology™ for Ovarian Cancer at the NCCN Annual Conference on Saturday, March 14.

Dr. Morgan began by explaining that the major challenge in treating ovarian cancer is that by the time the majority of patients (70 percent) are diagnosed with the disease, it has already progressed to stage III or IV. “We have not yet found a good way to screen the general population or even the high-risk population of women for ovarian cancer,” he said.

New to the NCCN Guidelines is a section on the management of allergic reactions in patients receiving chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. Dr. Morgan explained the need for this section as ovarian cancer tends to respond to the same treatment repeatedly. Combined with the fact that recurrence rates of ovarian cancer are high, this can result in patients often being retreated with the same chemotherapeutic agent. Given that virtually all chemotherapy drugs have the potential to cause infusion reactions, including agents commonly used in ovarian cancer, the NCCN Guidelines Panel felt it was important to provide information on allergic reactions and recommendations on desensitization regimens.

“Most patients experiencing allergic reactions are able to be desensitized allowing for continued chemotherapeutic treatment, which is vital to the management of ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Morgan.

Also new to the updated NCCN Guidelines is the addition of new agents for recurrence therapy, most notably pemetrexed (Alimta®, Eli Lilly and Company) as well as recommendations for therapies based on the timing of recurrence.

“Seventy-five to 80 percent of patients with stage III or IV ovarian cancer will experience recurrence and this recurrence can occur at any time – during treatment, within 6 months of completing treatment, or more than a year after completing treatment,” Dr. Morgan noted. “In the updated NCCN Guidelines, we differentiated appropriate therapy for recurrence based upon the time frame on which it occurs.”

Additionally, Dr. Morgan referred to a clinical trial suggesting that pemetrexed is active in recurrent ovarian cancer, to support the new recommendation in the updated NCCN Guidelines.

Dr. Morgan described new updates to the Principles of Primary Surgery section in the updated NCCN Guidelines that included the recommendation to consider completion surgery for patients responsive to chemotherapy with initially unresectable residual disease, as well as recommendations relating to special circumstances including minimally-invasive procedures, and fertility sparing procedures.

Dr. Morgan also discussed recent clinical studies conducted abroad that studied the effect of chemotherapy as an up-front therapy in patients with ovarian cancer, and concluded that “in the United States, up-front debulking surgery remains the recommendation for the best overall survival.”

Another addition to the updated NCCN Guidelines is a section on the Principles of Chemotherapy. This section emphasizes the encouragement of patients participating in clinical trials during all aspects of their treatment course as well as noting that patients with newly diagnosed tumors should be informed about the different options available, particularly IV vs. IV/IP chemotherapy and the risks and benefits of each regimen.

“The future of ovarian cancer lies in early detection and improvements in screening,” Dr. Morgan noted as he discussed potential biomarkers for the detection, prediction and prognostication of ovarian cancer.

He concluded that steady progress is being made in the treatment of ovarian cancer, but further trials are necessary to investigate the role of targeted agents alone and in combination in newly diagnosed and recurrent ovarian cancer. Finally, he again stressed the need for physicians to encourage their patients to participate in clinical trials.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), a not-for-profit alliance of 25 of the world's leading cancer centers, is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to patients with cancer. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers. The primary goal of all NCCN initiatives is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice so patients can live better lives. For more information, visit NCCN.org.

The NCCN Member Institutions are:

  • Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at The Nebraska Medical Center
  • City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center
    Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
  • Duke Cancer Institute
  • Fox Chase Cancer Center
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center / Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
  • The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
  • Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University
  • Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Moffitt Cancer Center
  • The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
  • Roswell Park Cancer Institute
  • Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital/The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Stanford Cancer Institute
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center
  • UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • University of Colorado Cancer Center
  • University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
  • Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital