OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. – Results of a global clinical trial published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine show that a new drug significantly improves survival in women with epithelial ovarian cancer, a deadly gynecologic cancer that often becomes resistant to chemotherapy. The lead author of the study is Kathleen Moore, M.D., associate director of clinical research at OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Health Sciences and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OU College of Medicine.
The most common type of ovarian malignancy, epithelial ovarian cancer develops in the epithelial tissue, a thin lining that covers the outside of an ovary. It can also form in the lining of a fallopian tube or in the peritoneum, the tissue that lines the abdomen. Platinum-based chemotherapy is often effective initially, but the cancer almost always returns and becomes resistant to it. The new drug that was tested, mirvetuximab soravtansine (MIRV), is effective because it targets a specific protein on the surface of epithelial ovarian cancer cells. The protein, called folate receptor alpha, is found in greater quantities on ovarian cancer cells than normal cells, which makes it an attractive target for drugs.
“Epithelial ovarian cancer is particularly aggressive and often shows no symptoms until a patient is diagnosed with advanced cancer,” Moore said. “In 2020, an estimated 313,959 new cases of ovarian cancer occurred worldwide, as well as 207,252 ovarian cancer-related deaths. With a five-year survival rate of approximately 50%, it is the deadliest type of gynecologic cancer. The success of this clinical trial is welcome news for patients at Stephenson Cancer Center and around the world.”
The recent clinical trial studying MIRV was considered Phase III, which compares the safety and effectiveness of a new drug against the current standard treatment. Most patients enrolled had high-grade epithelial cancer, meaning it is aggressive and faster to spread, and most had been previously treated with various therapies.
About half of the patients enrolled were randomly assigned to receive MIRV as a treatment for their platinum-resistant ovarian cancer; the other half received a standard type of chemotherapy. The results show that patients who received MIRV fared significantly better than those who received chemotherapy – 2.3% of patients receiving MIRV saw their cancer shrink, compared to 15.9% of those receiving chemotherapy. Patients taking MIRV responded to the drug longer without their cancer growing and spreading, and in 2.6% of patients taking MIRV, the cancer was undetectable after treatment was complete. Patients taking MIRV also experienced fewer negative side effects from the medication, compared to those undergoing chemotherapy.
MIRV is considered an antibody-drug conjugate, which is sometimes called “smart chemo” or a “biological missile” for its ability to target and kill cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Through complex engineering, MIRV is composed of an antibody linked to a drug that directs itself to the cancer cells. Because MIRV spares more of the healthy cells than chemotherapy does, patients do not suffer from the severe side effects that can lead them to stop treatment.
In November 2022, the Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval to MIRV. Moore’s study provides additional evidence that the drug would be an effective initial treatment for epithelial ovarian cancer.
“The importance of this study is that it provides even more validation of MIRV’s effectiveness in treating epithelial ovarian cancer that has a high expression of the folate receptor alpha and has become resistant to platinum-based chemotherapies,” Moore said. “Ovarian epithelial cancer is a lethal disease that, until now, has had few effective, targeted treatments. This clinical trial is exciting because it appears that this new drug can improve survival, with fewer severe side effects, thereby bringing new hope to women with this type of cancer.”
The journal article is titled “Mirvetuximab Soravtansine in FRa-Positive, Platinum-Resistant Ovarian Cancer” and can be found at link.ou.edu/3H6qMlp. Participating researchers around the world are members of the Gynecologic Oncology Group Partners in the United States and the European Network of Gynaecological Oncological Trial Groups. Moore serves as executive director of Gynecologic Oncology Group Partners.
About the OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center
OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center is Oklahoma’s only National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center. Stephenson Cancer Center is one of the nation’s elite centers, representing the top 2% of cancer centers in the country. It is the largest and most comprehensive oncology practice in the state, delivering patient-centered, multidisciplinary care for every type of cancer. As one of the nation’s leading research organizations, Stephenson Cancer Center uses the latest innovations to fight and eliminate cancer and is currently ranked No. 1 among all cancer centers in the nation for the number of patients participating in clinical trials sponsored by the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network. For more information, visit stephensoncancercenter.org.
About the OU College of Medicine
Founded in 1910, the OU College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences trains the next generation of health care professionals. The OU Health Sciences is the academic partner of OU Health, the state’s only comprehensive academic health system of hospitals, clinics and centers of excellence. With campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the College of Medicine offers the state’s only Doctor of Medicine degree program and a nationally competitive Physician Assistant program. For more information, visit medicine.ouhsc.edu.
About the University of Oklahoma
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. As the state’s flagship university, OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. OU was named the state’s highest-ranking university in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent Best Colleges list. For more information about the university, visit ou.edu.
The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) Advanced Technology Initiatives (ATI) has teamed up with the University of Oklahoma (OU) to research advanced transportation technologies, resilience to severe weather events, and defense and security challenges such as the development of counter-drone systems. The two entities have signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to achieve technological advancements, workforce development, economic growth, and scientific discovery, aligning OU’s academic objectives with CNO’s educational and economic priorities.
OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma is joining the National Cancer Institute’s new Cancer Screening Research Network to study promising approaches for cancer screening, especially among Oklahomans with high cancer risk and limited access to screening services. The research is funded by a $3.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health.
Richard Velasco, an assistant professor of mathematics education in the Department of Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum, is one of 10 recipients of an Equity in Math Education Research Grant from the National Academy of Education. These grants fund pioneering projects designed to revolutionize equitable and ambitious mathematical learning experiences for K-12 students in traditionally underserved and historically marginalized communities.