Women with a rare type of ovarian cancer could benefit from a drug that quadruples the likelihood of response, according to scientists.
Low grade serous ovarian cancer affects women at a younger age and is often resistant to standard chemotherapy.
Until now it has been particularly difficult to treat, but experts say the randomised trametinib trial – previously used to treat melanoma – paves the way for better outcomes.
The clinical study also found the treatment can halve the speed of relapse, as it is typically incurable once it returns.
Patients go on to receive several types of care but the intervals between relapses become progressively shorter.
Charlie Gourley, director of the Nicola Murray Centre for Ovarian Cancer Research at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Low grade serous ovarian cancer is different from other ovarian cancers because it affects younger women and is often resistant to chemotherapy.
“This is the first positive, randomised trial in this disease and represents a major breakthrough for patients with this type of ovarian cancer.”
The trial involved 260 patients and was led by the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Centre and the Nicola Murray Centre for Ovarian Cancer Research – part of the CRUK Edinburgh Centre.
Patients were randomly assigned either trametinib daily or their doctor’s choice of any five currently available therapies, known as standard of care.
This medicine works by blocking an abnormal signal in the cancer cell that causes it to multiply in an uncontrolled fashion.
Patients who received trametinib showed a chance of progression-free survival that was more than double that of those who received standard of care treatment.
The percentage of patients whose tumour shrank was more than four times higher in patients who used the drug, compared to those treated with the standard of care.