Targeted therapies for ovarian cancer
Targeted therapy uses drugs to find and attack cancer cells. There are different types of targeted therapy drug. Each type targets something in or around the cancer cell that is helping it grow and survive.
Your specialist doctor and nurse will explain which targeted treatment is most suitable for you. You may have targeted therapy drugs for as long as they are keeping the cancer away or controlling it.
We have more general information about targeted therapies.
Some of these drugs may only be available in some situations. Your specialist doctor can tell you if a drug is suitable for you. If a drug is not available to you on the NHS, there may be different ways you can have it. Your specialist doctor can give you advice.
We have more information about what to do if a treatment is not available.
You may have bevacizumab (Avastin®) if the cancer has spread further in the pelvis. You usually have it every 3 weeks along with chemotherapy. Your nurse will give it into a vein as an infusion (drip).
You carry on having bevacizumab when the chemotherapy has stopped. You may continue to have it for 1 year or longer if it is working for you. This is called maintenance treatment. Sometimes you have bevacizumab along with a PARP inhibitor drug called olaparib as maintenance treatment.
You may also have bevacizumab if the cancer comes back.
These drugs block a protein called PARP (poly-ADP ribose polymerase) which helps damaged cells to repair themselves. Without the PARP protein, the cancer cells may become too damaged to survive.
You start taking PARP inhibitor drugs several weeks after chemotherapy has finished. You take them for as long as they are working for you. This is a type of maintenance treatment. You take them as tablets or capsules every day.
You may start niraparib after your first course of chemotherapy finishes if the chemotherapy has worked well.
You may also have niraparib if the cancer comes back and further chemotherapy has been helpful.
Olaparib stops the PARP protein from helping cancer cells repair a faulty BRCA gene or a certain type of DNA damage.
You may have olaparib after your first course of chemotherapy if:
- you have a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene
- chemotherapy has worked well.
You may also have olaparib with bevacizumab as maintenance treatment. You will have these after your first course of chemotherapy if:
- tests show the cancer cells are unable to repair a certain type of DNA damage
- chemotherapy has worked well.
If you did not have olaparib during your first treatment, you may have it if the cancer comes back and is responding to further chemotherapy.
Rucaparib is another PARP inhibitor similar to niraparib. You usually only have rucaparib if the cancer comes back and chemotherapy has worked well. Depending on your situation, you may have rucaparib instead of chemotherapy.
Your specialist doctor or nurse will explain the side effects of the drug you are having. You can read about these on the links to the individual drugs.
They will explain how some side effects can be controlled or managed. Always tell them about your side effects, especially if they do not improve or get worse.
Some general side effects of targeted therapy drugs are:
- increased risk of infection, anaemia and bleeding – this is due to a reduced number of blood cells
- feeling sick
- high blood pressure.
Rarely, you may have an allergic reaction when you have bevacizumab. This is more likely with the first or second drip, so you have these more slowly. The nurses will monitor you closely.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our ovarian cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
Ledermann, Raja, Fotopoulou et al. Newly diagnosed and relapsed epithelial ovarian carcinoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology, 2013; Volume 24, Supplement 6. Updated online 2020. Available from www.esmo.org/guidelines (accessed July 2021)
Management of epithelial ovarian cancer. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). Nov 2013 revised 2018. Available from www.sign.ac.uk.
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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