Ovarian cancer is often deadly. Women may have few symptoms, and more than 50 percent of patients are first told they have cancer when the disease is already at an advanced stage. Researchers in Pittsburgh have found an encouraging treatment.
Wanda, Ovarian cancer patient:
“I thought I had gall bladder problems, and I thought, ‘Well, I haven’t been to the gynecologist for a while.”
Wanda had advanced ovarian cancer. It was 1987, and treatment options were limited. “In less than 10 days, I was in the hospital having surgery.”
“The survival in study after study, long-term, up to five years in patients with high-grade, advanced stage ovarian cancer, is essentially zero.”
After unsuccessful chemotherapy, Wanda entered a study of Interleuken-2 or IL-2, a naturally occurring body hormone that stimulates the immune system. After a second operation, the women in the study received IL-2 either once a week or 7 days in a row. Doctors were not optimistic.
“The purpose of the study was to identify how toxic or how sick this particular agent or drug would make these patients.”
Of 45 patients, nine responded to IL-2. Patients taking the lowest dose the least often had the best results.
“It’s a very pleasant finding, both the fact that there were patients who appeared to have been cured but also that the regimen that worked best was the regimen that made the patients the least sick.”
Wanda saw quick improvement. “I was clear. Oh, that was the best news. It was really a celebration.”