When cancer spreads beyond its primary location to distant organs, lymph nodes or other body areas, it is called metastatic. When ovarian cancer spreads to this degree, it’s most commonly found in the abdominal cavity (omentum, bowel, liver or spleen), lymph nodes in the abdomen and pelvis, and the lungs. These new locations of disease — called metastases — are still ovarian cancer, rather than intestinal or lung cancer, because the cancer cells are ovarian cells.
Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect at early stages because early warning symptoms are often lacking or vague, and an effective screening test is yet to be developed. As a result, more than half — 58% — of ovarian cancers are metastatic at the time of diagnosis. Metastatic cancers are also more likely than early-stage cancers to recur after treatment.
How We Can Help
If your ovarian cancer has metastasized, your treatment will depend on what cancer treatments, you may have already undergone, and many other factors unique to you and your cancer cells. Roswell Park’s multispecialty ovarian cancer team meets regularly at tumor board meetings to discuss the very best approach for each individual patient with this complex diagnosis. We offer:
- Clinical trials of the latest treatments, immunotherapies, cancer vaccines and other options that may be unavailable from other providers.
- High volume surgical expertise for complex gynecologic surgery and cytoreductive “debulking” surgery pelvic debulking.
- Intraperitoneal chemotherapy which bathes the pelvic cavity in chemotherapy drugs, allowing use of stronger, more powerful doses.
- Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) may be an option for certain patients. Like intraperitoneal chemotherapy, HIPEC delivers high doses of chemotherapy drugs directly to the abdomen, but in this approach, the treatment is delivered at the time of surgery, and the drugs are heated to fever range (107.6F), which improves their effectiveness.
- Gamma knife radiosurgery, a highly specialized form of radiation treatment to treat metastases in the brain without surgery or incisions.
What’s New in Ovarian Cancer Research at Roswell Park?
Some of the most exciting research in ovarian cancer is underway at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, including our work in:
- Immunotherapy treatments. Home to a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) — one of only five in the country dedicated to ovarian cancer — this National Cancer Institute program was established to intensify and accelerate ovarian cancer research and bring improved treatments to patients quickly. Roswell Park has partnered with University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in this effort, which focuses on immunologic approaches to fighting ovarian cancer.
- Developing an early detection test. Our scientists are also part of a research consortium that is working toward developing an early detection test for ovarian cancer by finding a way to screen for serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma (STIC), a precancerous condition that often occurs in the fallopian tubes several years before ovarian cancer develops.
- Early Phase Clinical Trials Program. A unique research program that develops novel therapies, offering patients their first opportunity to access the latest options.