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Italian Study: New Molecule Slows Down Ovarian Cancer



CHICAGO — A Multicentre Italian Trials in Ovarian Cancer (MITO) study showing the effects of a specific molecule on ovarian cancer has been named one of the best research studies presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

The study showed how the addition of a specific molecule to chemotherapy in patients suffering from an advanced stage of ovarian cancer can significantly slow the progression of the disease. The study, partially funded by the Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro (AIRC) and the Associazione Italiana di Oncologia Medica (AIOM), involved 80 Italian and foreign centers and was coordinated by the Istituto Nazionale Tumori Pascale di Napoli.

Some 400 patients took part in the study. The aim, the oncologist Sandro Pignata from the Istituto Nazionale Tumori Pascale said, “was to assess whether the antiangiogenetic drug bevacizumab, which blocks the growth of blood vessels feeding the tumor, would be effective if added to chemotherapy even in patients in an advanced state and with a relapse of the disease that had received it previously” after surgery. The result, he said, “is significant. It showed that the addition of a specific molecule lengthens the disease-free survival time. The drug, that is, delays the onset of the reappearance of the disease by four months compared with chemotherapy alone.” It is a step forward that is “very important”, Pignata said, “Since our aim, in the case of metastasized ovarian cancer in an advanced stage, is to make the disease into a chronic one. Thus, every little bit towards a lengthening of survival is fundamental. Though the aim is not curing it at that point, we have managed to lengthen survival times. “He added that, “a bio-bank was also created that gathers together samples to analyze to identify which patients respond better to that therapeutic approach.” It is, he added, “the first clinical study that shows how a biological drug of this type can be effective even as a ‘retreatment’. However, in the fight against ovarian cancer other possible treatments are opening up.”

The expert noted that, in Italy, there are four experimental trials about to begin that “provide for the addition of immune therapy drugs that try to re-awaken the immunity system against cancer to chemotherapy. We should have the initial data within a year”. The therapy presented at ASCO, Pignata said, is important in part because “it is independent research that shows Italy’s role in this field.”

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