Medications for Ovarian Cancer

NYU Langone doctors give chemotherapy, or drugs that destroy cancer cells throughout the body, after surgery to help destroy any ovarian cancer that has spread beyond the ovaries or fallopian tubes.

Chemotherapy may also be used in women who are not candidates for surgery because the ovarian cancer is too widespread or they are in poor overall health. 

Targeted drugs, which home in on cancer cells while sparing healthy tissue, may be used as an initial treatment for ovarian cancer. They can also be used in addition to chemotherapy for ovarian cancer that has come back after initial treatments.

Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy

Women who have advanced epithelial ovarian cancer may undergo intraperitoneal chemotherapy, in which drugs are delivered through a catheter, a flexible tube that’s placed directly into the abdomen. This approach results in a concentrated dose of chemotherapy drugs reaching cancerous tissue. 

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy may involve a combination of drugs, including platinums and paclitaxel, given for a few days, followed by a break of several weeks to let the body rest and recover. This cycle is then repeated several times. Doctors at NYU Langone have extensive experience with delivering this type of chemotherapy.

Intravenous Chemotherapy

The same type of chemotherapy drugs used for the intraperitoneal approach may be given through a vein through intravenous (IV) infusion. These drugs are also given in cycles. Doctors use different doses and treatment schedules for intravenous chemotherapy for various types of ovarian cancer, and they individualize treatment for you. 

As with the intraperitoneal approach, doctors at NYU Langone have extensive experience with delivering intravenous chemotherapy.

Targeted Drugs

Targeted drugs may be used as an initial treatment option for women who have advanced cancer. 

Our doctors also specialize in creating personalized treatment plans for women who have ovarian cancer that comes back after other treatments. This treatment usually includes IV chemotherapy, with the possible addition of a targeted drug. 

For example, doctors at NYU Langone may add bevacizumab, also known as Avastin®, to chemotherapy drugs to treat recurrent ovarian cancer. This medication—given through IV infusion—is made of antibodies, which are immune proteins that help to remove foreign substances such as viruses from the body. These antibodies attach to the surface of cancer cells, interfering with their ability to form new blood vessels that help tumors to grow. 

Our doctors are also experienced in the use of PARP inhibitors for advanced ovarian cancer. These targeted drugs are used in women with tumors that have BRCA mutations and who have already received chemotherapy. They work by blocking an enzyme that helps repair DNA, called poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. A PARP inhibitor called olaparib is taken by mouth on a daily basis. 

Because bevacizumab and PARP inhibitors target cancer cells, while avoiding healthy tissue, they may cause fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.

Managing Side Effects

During treatment, doctors at NYU Langone closely monitor you for side effects. For example, chemotherapy may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; low levels of red blood cells, or anemia, which causes fatigue; and low levels of white blood cells, which increase the risk of infection. Side effects may be more intense with intraperitoneal delivery. In addition, bevacizumab may cause a rise in blood pressure, while olaparib may cause nausea and fatigue.  

To reduce side effects, our doctors can adjust the dose, prescribe other medications, or refer you to Perlmutter Cancer Center’s integrative health services.

Clinical Trials

NYU Langone researchers are studying new, targeted drugs and medications that boost the immune system, known as immunotherapies, to help treat ovarian cancer. Our doctors can discuss whether a clinical trial is right for you.

More Ovarian Cancer Resources

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