Ovarian cancer usually is treated with surgery and chemo but about 80 percent of patients relapse, said Dr. Joyce Liu of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
She led a federally funded study of 90 such women to test cediranib, a drug that blocks tumor blood vessel formation, plus olaparib, part of a new class of experimental drugs called PARP inhibitors, which keep cancer cells from repairing damage to their DNA.
The ovarian cancer study was the first time these two drugs had been tested together. The combo delayed by more than eight months the time it took for the disease to get worse compared to olaparib alone.
It's too soon to know whether the combo will prolong survival; participants are still being tracked.
Cediranib seemed headed for the scrap heap after failing studies on lung and colon cancer, but this is the second study to suggest it works against ovarian cancer. AstraZeneca said it may seek the drug's approval for ovarian cancer later this year.
The price of either drug has not been set.
Study participant Ann Marie McEnelly, 61, of Brockton, Massachusetts, said the combo eliminated several of her tumors and dramatically shrank some others. Her cancer had spread from her ovaries to lymph nodes and her abdominal wall.
"It's amazing. My husband and I are thrilled to be part of the study," she said. "I'm able to work full time. I play golf, do things, watch my grandkids, pretty much do everything I did before."