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New Treatment Options Lead to Steady Progress Against Ovarian Cancer; Clinical Trials Remain Imperative


Recommendations stemming from recent clinical trials highlight notable updates to the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines™) for Ovarian Cancer at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) 16th Annual Conference.


HOLLYWOOD, FL — Although finding effective screening tools remains a priority, new treatment options for women with ovarian cancer, such as the ones outlined in the updated NCCN Guidelines for Ovarian Cancer, are vital to making steady progress against the disease 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 outlined significant updates to the NCCN Guidelines during a recent presentation at the NCCN Annual Conference.

The NCCN Guidelines address epithelial ovarian cancer (including borderline or low malignant potential) and less common histopathologies, including malignant germ neoplasms, carcinosarcomas, and sex cord-stromal tumors. They also discuss Fallopian Tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer, which are less common neoplasms that are managed in a similar manner to epithelial ovarian cancer.

“Regardless of the type of cancer, the NCCN Guidelines for Ovarian Cancer reflect the importance of stage and grade of disease on prognosis and treatment recommendations,” said Dr. Morgan.

The NCCN Guidelines continue to recommend that women with borderline epithelial ovarian cancer of low malignant potential be primarily surgically managed. In contrast to patients with frankly invasive ovarian carcinoma, women with borderline disease tend to be younger and are often diagnosed with stage I disease.

“The benefits of postoperative chemotherapy has not been demonstrated for patients who have no microscopically demonstrable invasive implants, said Dr. Morgan. “Even patients with advanced stage disease at presentation have an excellent prognosis and chemotherapy should be avoided.”

The NCCN Guidelines recommend surgery limited to a USO (preserving the uterus and contralateral ovary) for women who wish to maintain their fertility, and standard ovarian cancer debulking surgery is recommended for those not concerned about fertility preservation.

On the contrary, in women diagnosed with stage II, III, or IV epithelial ovarian cancer, the NCCN Guidelines recommend intraperitoneal chemotherapy for first-line therapy and have been updated to include dose-dense paclitaxel (Taxol®:, Bristol-Myers Squibb) as a possible treatment option.

Dr. Morgan noted that in a recent clinical trial, dose-dense weekly paclitaxel with carboplatin (Paraplatin®:, Bristol-Myers Squibb) showed an increase in both progression-free survival and overall survival when compared with conventional intraperitoneal chemotherapy of weekly carboplatin/paclitaxel.

“However, the dose-dense regimen is more toxic, and patients discontinued dose-dense paclitaxel therapy more often than those receiving standard therapy,” stated Dr. Morgan. “As with all treatment decisions, the patient needs to weigh the potential benefits and risks and discuss them thoroughly with their physician.”

Dr. Morgan discussed two additional phase 3 trials assessing bevacizumab (Avastin®:, Genentech/Roche) combined with carboplatin/paclitaxel in the upfront setting compared to carboplatin/paclitaxel alone. Although data regarding overall survival and quality of life have not been reported yet, the studies did indicate that the median progression-free survival increased in patients receiving bevacizumab as a first line and maintenance therapy.

“Only modest improvements in progression-free survival were observed in both of these trials. The NCCN Guidelines Panel prefers to await mature results of these trials prior to recommending the routine addition of bevacizumab to carboplatin/paclitaxel,” said Dr. Morgan.

As such, the updated NCCN Guidelines includes new language detailing the Panel’s view on bevacizumab encouraging participation in ongoing clinical trials that are further investigating the role of anti-angiogenesis agents in the treatment of ovarian cancer, both in the upfront and recurrence settings.

Biomarkers continue to emerge as an area of interest in predicting future patterns of the disease. In patients with ovarian cancer, Dr. Morgan discussed the value of monitoring CA-125 levels in regards to a recent study comparing early versus delayed treatment of relapsed ovarian cancer.

“Often, levels of CA-125 have been shown to rise prior to a clinical or symptomatic relapse in women with ovarian cancer. This trial looked at whether there was a benefit of early treatment on the basis of increased CA-125 concentrations compared with delayed treatment on the basis of clinical recurrence,” said Dr. Morgan.

The study, which was published in The Lancet, found that there was no survival benefit to early institution of treatment based on increased CA-125 levels and that the quality of life was superior in patients in the late treatment arm.

“The results of the trial suggest that the utility of the routine monitoring of CA-125 levels in limited,” said Dr. Morgan. “The NCCN Guidelines Panel encourages patients and their physicians to actively discuss the pros and cons of CA-125 monitoring based upon these findings and have updated the NCCN Guidelines to include language supporting this recommendation.”

Virtually all drugs used in oncology have the potential to cause adverse drug reactions while being infused, which can be classified as either infusion or allergic reactions. Recently, hypersensitivity to platinum compounds has been recognized as a potential issue for patients being administered these compounds.

“Platinum compounds remain very important in the treatment of ovarian cancer in both the upfront and recurrence settings, so it was important to design strategies to allow for the safe desensitization of these agents in patients who develop allergies,” said Dr. Morgan.

Standard desensitization regimens include slowly increasing infusion concentrations over several hours. However, Dr. Morgan noted that these procedures must be done in a specific manner in order to be safely administered and pointed to the recommendations within the updated NCCN Guidelines discussing the management of drug reactions.

In conclusion, Dr. Morgan emphasized that although steady progress is being made in the treatment of ovarian cancer, further trials are necessary to investigate the role of targeted agents alone and in combination in newly diagnosed and recurrent ovarian cancer. In addition, enrollment of patients with ovarian cancer must be encouraged.

The NCCN Guidelines are developed and updated through an evidence-based process with explicit review of the scientific evidence integrated with expert judgment by multidisciplinary panels of expert physicians from NCCN Member Institutions. The most recent version of this and all NCCN Guidelines are available free of charge at NCCN.org. The NCCN Guidelines for Patients™: Ovarian Cancer is available at NCCN.com.

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