How Biomarker Testing May Help Inform Your Advanced Ovarian Cancer Treatment

This article is sponsored by AstraZeneca and Merck.

Being Diagnosed With Ovarian Cancer

When you receive an ovarian cancer diagnosis, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed with emotions about this new information and how it will change your life. You and your loved ones may have many questions, including:

  • What caused the cancer?
  • What are the treatment options for my specific type of ovarian cancer?
  • How can my healthcare team and I decide on the best treatment plan for me?

Remember that you are not alone. Nearly 20,000 women in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year.

“When facing a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, it’s important to keep in mind that your healthcare team will be there with you – every step of the way – to answer any questions you may have about your diagnosis and to help you move forward with your treatment,” said Dr. Sarah Adams. Dr. Adams is a professor at the University of New Mexico and a scientific advisor for the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. Merck & Co., Inc. and AstraZeneca are corporate partners of the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance.

What Is Ovarian Cancer?

The ovaries are made up of three kinds of cells, and each of these can develop into a different type of tumor, including germ cell tumors, epithelial tumors and stromal tumors – epithelial tumors being the most common. Tumors from ovarian cells can be:

  • Non-cancerous (benign), which may never spread past the ovaries, or
  • Cancerous (malignant), which may spread to other parts of the body

Healthcare professionals will determine the stage of your cancer based on imaging studies and surgical findings. The stage of a cancer is a way of describing whether it has spread outside of the ovary or to distant sites in your body. This is important information in developing a treatment plan.

Some symptoms of ovarian cancer – such as bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating, or urinary symptoms – may not be present or noticeable or can sometimes be mistaken as signs of more common and less serious conditions, such as stomach, digestive or urinary issues. This often leads to ovarian cancer being diagnosed in more advanced stages of disease – after the cancer has spread.

In addition to other risk factors, you may be at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer if you have:

  • A family history of certain cancers
  • Certain gene changes (mutations) that are passed down through families (inherited), such as a mutation in the BRCA gene (the breast cancer gene)

It’s important to know as much as possible about your cancer, so your healthcare team can recommend an appropriate treatment plan for you. One way to do this is through biomarker testing, which may be conducted by your healthcare team to determine specific information about your tumor.

Biomarker Testing May Help Inform Treatment Options for Advanced Ovarian Cancer

A biomarker is a biological molecule (e.g., genes, proteins) found in body fluids (e.g., blood) or tissues that may be used to help identify possible treatment options. Biomarkers can give your healthcare team important information about your ovarian cancer, including which treatments may be an option for you.

Biomarker testing may be conducted by your healthcare team in a variety of ways, including biopsies of the tumor, or a blood sample. It’s important to talk to your doctor about biomarker testing to see if it's right for you.

“No two people with cancer are the same. It’s important to know about the unique characteristics of your cancer to inform decisions about your treatment in partnership with your healthcare team,” said Dr. Adams. “Biomarker testing can be a helpful tool that allows you and your healthcare team to learn more about your cancer. The results of these tests may help identify what treatment options may be right for you.”

Currently, there are several available treatment options for advanced ovarian cancer. Some common options include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapies

“If your results show that you test positive for certain biomarkers, you and your healthcare team may decide that targeted therapies may be an option for you,” said Dr. Adams. “I encourage people to ask about biomarker testing, and to discuss their treatment options with their healthcare team.”

Talking to Your Doctor

It’s important to ask your doctor about biomarker testing. When you receive a biomarker test following your diagnosis, you and your healthcare team will have additional information to help inform your treatment plan.

Talk to your doctor to learn more about how biomarker testing may help inform your treatment plan for advanced ovarian cancer.

US-70922 Last Updated 11/22