The Benefits of Ovarian Cancer Clinical Trials: Should You Participate?

June 6, 2024

The Benefits of Ovarian Cancer Clinical Trials: Should You Participate?

What are the benefits of ovarian cancer clinical trials? Should you participate in a trial?

Ovarian cancer is one of the most challenging cancers that women face. It is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, and despite progress in treatment, the disease ranks as the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States.

But there is hope on the horizon, thanks to the dedicated work of researchers and the courageous patients who participate in clinical trials. 

By joining a clinical trial, women with ovarian cancer have the opportunity to access cutting-edge treatments, receive high-quality care, and contribute to finding cures. Clinical trials also move forward the benchmark for ovarian cancer treatment

What are Clinical Trials for Ovarian Cancer?

Clinical trials are medical research studies that investigate potential new drugs, treatment approaches, diagnostic tests, or prevention strategies. After initial testing in the lab, promising therapies move into carefully conducted trials with patient volunteers. These trials follow strict scientific protocols and oversight to ensure treatments are safe and effective.

There are several types of ovarian cancer trials, including:

  • Treatment trials testing new drugs, drug combinations, or ways of delivering treatment 
  • Prevention trials exploring medicines, vaccines, or lifestyle changes that may lower risk
  • Screening trials to find new ways of detecting ovarian cancer early
  • Quality of life trials aiming to reduce side effects and improve well-being

Why Participate in Ovarian Cancer Clinical Trials?

What are the benefits of ovarian cancer clinical trials? Should you participate in a trial? Let’s explore some of the ways clinical trial participation can help ovarian cancer patients.

Access to Innovative Treatments

One of the top reasons many patients choose to enroll in clinical trials is to receive new therapies that aren’t otherwise available. Trials provide access to promising drugs and cutting-edge approaches that experts believe could improve outcomes. 

Research institutions and ovarian cancer charity organizations are investigating options such as antibody-drug conjugates, as well as anti-PARP resistance mechanisms and CAR T-cell therapies. 

Anti-PARP resistance mechanisms involve studying ways to overcome the resistance that some ovarian tumors develop to PARP inhibitor drugs, which are particularly effective in women with BRCA gene mutations. Researchers are exploring combination therapies and targeting specific molecular pathways to improve the long-term effectiveness of these drugs. 

CAR T-cell therapies, on the other hand, are a type of immunotherapy that engineers a patient’s own immune cells to recognize and attack ovarian cancer cells. This approach has shown early promise, and researchers are working to refine and optimize it for ovarian cancer. Overall, these research options are great opportunities for patients to be involved in because they may represent the future standard of care.

Close Monitoring and Quality Care

Another benefit of trial participation is the rigorous oversight and attentive care provided. Patients are closely monitored with frequent check-ins and tests. They also receive detailed information about their treatment, side effects, and any signs to watch for. 

Many patients appreciate the specialized care and access to a team of experts. A team of physicians, nurses, coordinators, advanced nurse practitioners and physician assistants are there to support all patients, including those who participate in clinical trials. The medical team recognizes that clinical trial participation requires specialized care and attention.

Advancing Cancer Research

Ultimately, all patients who volunteer for trials are providing an invaluable service by helping to improve treatment for current and future patients. Today’s standard therapies all had to go through the clinical trials process, and further progress depends on ongoing research.

In one impactful international trial, the oral drug olaparib was found to substantially decrease the risk of progression and death when used as maintenance therapy for women with BRCA-positive advanced ovarian cancer. Thanks to this and subsequent studies, olaparib is now part of standard care. Other treatment breakthroughs will follow as more trials are conducted.

Is a Clinical Trial Recommended for First Recurrence of Ovarian Cancer?  

For many women, clinical trials may provide important treatment options at the time of ovarian cancer recurrence. The majority of women with advanced ovarian cancer will experience a recurrence within three years of initial treatment, so additional approaches are critically needed. 

Clinical trials are increasingly being considered as an option for women at the time of first recurrence. By expanding access to novel therapies, trials can provide alternatives to standard treatment, or add to it. Discussing clinical trial options soon after a recurrence, in parallel to other treatment planning, can increase a woman’s options.

How to Find Clinical Trials for Ovarian Cancer  

Women interested in finding an appropriate clinical trial can start by talking with their gynecologic oncologist. Doctors can identify trials that may be a good fit based on a patient’s specific diagnosis, treatment history, and preferences. Physicians can also explain the potential risks and benefits, and connect women with trial coordinators.

Patients can also search for trials on their own or with the help of patient navigators. Resources provided by Not These Ovaries as well as other tools for finding trials often allow searching by type and stage of ovarian cancer, location, and treatment history. Emerging online matching services and artificial intelligence tools will continue to make it easier for patients to find relevant trial options.

Determining If You Are Right for a Clinical Trial  

Choosing to participate in a clinical trial is a highly personal decision that depends on each woman’s unique situation and goals. Some key factors to consider include:

  • Your current health status and treatment options 
  • Potential risks and benefits of the trial therapy
  • Practical matters like the trial location, visit schedule, costs and insurance coverage
  • Your support system and ability to participate
  • How you feel about trying an experimental treatment and contributing to research

Some women may feel that a clinical trial is their best option, while others may prefer to pursue standard treatments. There is no right or wrong choice. The most important thing is to get the facts, think carefully about priorities, and make an informed decision. This can be done in collaboration with loved ones and the healthcare team.

It is also critical to understand that participation is always voluntary. Patients can leave a trial at any time if they feel it is no longer right for them. Participating in a clinical trial is a personal decision, and it is a gift to all women. Medical teams are proud to be able to offer this choice.

Moving Forward, With Hope

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of researchers and volunteers, scientific understanding of ovarian cancer has grown tremendously. Clinical trials have paved the way for new targeted drugs, immunotherapies, and combination treatments that are helping women live longer and better.

Ongoing clinical trial participation is crucial to continue accelerating progress. We at Not These Ovaries are working tirelessly to raise funds and awareness to support ovarian cancer research and clinical trials, helping to drive these vital efforts forward. If you are facing an ovarian cancer diagnosis, it’s worth taking time to learn about and carefully consider clinical trials. You may find a trial that is right for you. In the process, you can take an active role in advancing treatment for all women affected by this disease.

There is no doubt that an ovarian cancer diagnosis is frightening and challenging. But with the support of loved ones, a skilled medical team, and the power of research, there are more reasons for hope than ever before. Clinical trials are lighting the path toward better care, and the potential for cures.