Antibodies Fight Ovarian Cancer
Television News Service/Medical Breakthroughs
©Ivanhoe Broadcast News, Inc. April 2000
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- More than 14,000 American women die each year from ovarian cancer. Those who are treated and recover often worry it will come back. Until now, the recurrence rate was 50 percent. A new procedure improves the odds.
Window shopping is something best friends Drema Willis and Patricia Bankerd do together at least once a month. However, their fun outings have a serious side, too. Part of the day is spent at the Mayo Clinic where Patricia is being treated for ovarian cancer.
"They weren't sure if they were going to be able to help me, because I was getting very close to the very last stage," says Patricia.
Patricia first received the standard treatment -- surgery and chemotherapy -- and it looked like she was doing well. But looks can be deceiving. Just one month after her final chemo session, Mark McLaughlin, M.D., checked for new cancer growth.
"When we did the laparoscopy and found that there was microscopic disease present, that microscopic disease over a certain period of time would become macroscopic disease and eventually be termed as recurrent cancer," says Dr. McLaughlin, a radiation oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
Rather than give up, Patricia tried an experimental procedure.
In the procedure, which is only done once, doctors insert a tube, much like a straw, into the abdomen. Then radioactive antibodies in the form of a liquid are added. The antibodies are attracted like a magnet to ovarian cancer cells, killing them.
"We found out their cure rate was basically 80 percent," says Dr. McLaughlin. "Eighty percent of the women were cured when we usually expect the cure rate to be 50 percent after surgery and chemotherapy."
More than 200 women are involved in the trial. They'll be followed for at least two years. It's been a year since Patricia got the antibodies.
"I probably would have been back within six months and started the chemo all over again," says Patricia.
Doctors say the experimental procedure could become the standard treatment, but there is one side effect. Doctors say the antibodies lower the level of white blood cells, which affects the immune system. It returns to normal over time.