For women with an extremely rare, aggressive, and fatal form of ovarian cancer known as small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type (SCCOHT), there are few drug therapies to treat their cancer. Surgery is the best option for these patients, but the cancer often recurs.
However, a small number of SCCOHT patients are now in remission unexpectedly after receiving immunotherapy. Douglas A. Levine, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Perlmutter Cancer Center, reviewed the case histories of four of these patients and published findings January 22 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Immunotherapies are believed to be ineffective in treating cancers with few mutations, such as SCCOHT, which has only a single mutation. One new theory is that in the cases of the women with SCCOHT, immunotherapy drugs successfully targeted a mutation in a master regulatory gene that is rapidly switching other genes on and off, Dr. Levine tells The New York Times. Dr. Levine, a recognized expert on SCCOHT, recently discovered that the cancer is driven by a single gene mutation.
While Dr. Levine explains that the idea is “strictly hypothesis,” it gives doctors new fodder for research in their search for successful cancer treatments.
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