Scientists here testing new treatment for ovarian cancer

Researchers are testing a new treatment for ovarian cancer which may improve the quality of life for patients with recurrences or advanced stages of the disease.

Scientists at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) are conducting a clinical trial to test the new immunotherapy, which harnesses the body's natural defences to fight cancer. It may have fewer side-effects than conventional chemotherapy as it does not kill healthy cells.

Immunotherapy is used in treating other cancers such those in the lung and kidney and melanomas. The new treatment could be an option for patients with ovarian cancer if chemotherapy fails.

NCCS associate consultant Jack Chan said at a press conference yesterday that the trial is important because ovarian cancer may be on the rise. "There has been a new case of ovarian cancer almost every day here for the last five years," he noted. A total of 1,797 new cases were diagnosed from 2011 to 2015, according to the Singapore Cancer Registry. In that period, 634 women died of the disease.

While not as generally well-known as breast cancer, ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cause of cancer-related deaths in women here, and is the second most common gynaecological cancer among women in Singapore.

The trial is in its early phases, to test the safety and effectiveness of the treatment in 20 patients with ovarian cancer. It started in May this year and will recruit patients till the middle of next year.

"I hope that such a treatment will be successfully tested so it can help others like me," said Madam Alice Tay, 65, a private nurse. She was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in 2009, which relapsed in 2013 and 2016. Undergoing chemotherapy caused her to lose her hair twice.

Indirectly funding the research is the annual Run for Hope, held to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. The run will take place on Jan 21 next year and hopes to draw about 12,000 people. Registration for the run is open till Jan 8.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Scientists here testing new treatment for ovarian cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe