Ovarian cancer is the 6th most common cancer in women in the UK, with around 5,800 new cases every year in England. Just over half of all ovarian cancer cases in the UK each year are diagnosed in women aged 65 years and over. The symptoms of the disease are vague, including loss of appetite and tummy pain. This can mean that the cancer is diagnosed when the disease is advanced and more difficult to treat. Most patients have the cancer removed by surgery and also receive chemotherapy, which usually includes platinum-based drugs. However, the disease often comes back (recurs), and the platinum-based chemotherapy drugs may be less effective at treating this recurrence. If the cancer recurs within 6 months of the previous treatment, and platinum-based chemotherapy does not work, the disease is called “platinum-resistant”.
Mirvetuximab soravtansine has been developed to treat ovarian cancer that is platinum-resistant. The drug is administered by intravenous infusion and works in two stages. First, it recognises a receptor on the cancer cells, attaches itself to the cancer cell and then enters it. When it is inside the cancer cell the drug releases a toxic substance that kills the cancer cell when it tries to grow. This toxic substance can spread to other nearby cancer cells, killing them as well. If licensed, this drug would provide an additional treatment option to women with ovarian cancer when other treatments have stopped working.
Pembrolizumab is a drug administered by intravenous infusion which stimulates the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. If licensed, pembrolizumab in addition to chemotherapy could provide an additional or alternative treatment option to patients who currently have limited treatment options.