The ICON6 trial has found that a new drug, called cediranib, improves survival among women whose ovarian cancer has come back after an initial course of chemotherapy. Taking cediranib daily during chemotherapy and afterwards for a total of up to 18 months increased overall survival by around three months, from 17.6 months to 20.3 months. These results were presented yesterday at the 2013 European Cancer Congress.
Cediranib is a tablet that stops tumours developing the blood vessels they need to keep growing. It is simple to take, and most women in the trial did not suffer severe side-effects. This is the first trial to show that an oral medicine of this type can help increase survival of women with ovarian cancer.
The ICON6 trial involved 456 patients with ovarian cancer that had come back after initial treatment. Patients were divided at random to receive either standard chemotherapy plus a placebo, or standard chemotherapy with cediranib for either the length of chemotherapy, or for 18 months. In some cases the cediranib was continued beyond 18 months if the patient was still benefitting clinically.
Although other recent ovarian cancer trials have identified treatments that increase the time until a tumour shows signs of progressing, they have not also demonstrated improvement in how long women live. Cediranib improves both of these measures, which is very encouraging.
The trial was an international collaboration between members of the Gynecologic Cancer Intergroup (GCIG), and recruited women from the UK, Canada, Australia and Spain. It was co-ordinated by the MRC Clinical Trials Unit in London.