Chemo Before Surgery May Benefit Ovarian Cancer Patients

Ovarian cancer patients who had chemotherapy before surgery had reduced complications

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It's not always one or the other when it comes to cancer treatment options like chemotherapy and surgery. And which comes first may make a difference.

That may be the case for some ovarian cancer patients, a new study found. Women with advanced ovarian cancer who had chemotherapy before surgery had fewer side effects and complications and better quality of life, this study found.

"The trial showed that shrinking the tumour before surgery reduced side effects and hospital stay — meaning improved quality of life, without compromising survival, which is better for patients," said lead study author Sean Kehoe, MD, professor of gynecological cancer at the University of Birmingham in the UK, in a press release.

Cancer Research UK Chief Clinician Peter Johnson, MD, said this study may answer questions that some doctors and patients have.

"Whether to have chemotherapy before major surgery for ovarian cancer has always been a dilemma for women and their surgeons," Dr. Johnson, who was not involved with the current study, said in a press release. "Thanks to this study we can say that having chemotherapy first makes the surgery safer, the stay in hospital shorter and women's quality of life better. These are important results that will make a big difference to many women in the future."

Ovarian cancer is a cancer of the ovaries. It is the deadliest cancer of the female reproductive system, according to the American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy (the treatment of a disease with several powerful drugs) and surgery are often used to treat ovarian cancer.

Dr. Kehoe and team used data from the CHORUS trial to conduct their study. CHORUS included 550 women with ovarian cancer. Of these women, 276 received surgery followed by six cycles of chemotherapy — a standard treatment. The other 274 women had surgery to remove their cancer after three cycles of chemotherapy.

Women who underwent surgery first were more likely than the other patients to have postsurgery complications and stay in the hospital longer, Dr. Kehoe and team found. In the 28 days following surgery, 14 percent of the chemo-first group had complications — compared to 24 percent of the surgery-first group. In the same time frame after surgery, 14 of the women in the surgery-first group died. Among those in the chemo-first group, one died.

This study was published May 20 in The Lancet.

Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists funded this research. Dr. Kehoe and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 21, 2015
Last Updated:
May 28, 2015