Friday, January 13, 2012

How Do Those Ovarian Cancer Treatments Work?

I have always been interested in how cancer treatments work to destroy cancer cells. The other day I was talking to another ovarian cancer survivor on the phone. She was deciding between two treatments for a recurrence. When I hung up the phone I realized that I knew the side effects of the treatments but I really didn't know how they worked to kill off the cancer cells. So I decided to do some research on the NCI site to find the answer.

Here is a summary of the popular Chemotherapy treatments, drugs and biologics, used in the treatment of Ovarian Cancer. More complete information can be found at

Paclitaxel ( Taxol) & Abraxane

binds to and stabilizes microtubules,preventing their depolymerization and so inhibiting cellular motility, mitosis and replication”

Remember high school biology and the steps of cell reproduction. This drug affects that process. Abraxane is similar to Paclitaxel but does not use a solvent which causes side effects so it permits the administration of larger doses.


binds to GC-rich sites in DNA , thereby inducing intrastrand and interstrand DNA cross-link, as well as DNA-protein cross- links...results in apoptosis and cell growth inhibition.

This platinum drug binds to the Guanine and Cytosine rungs on the DNA helix and causes cell growth to stop and then cell death occurs.

Gemcitabine ( Gemzar)

is converted intracellularly to the active metabolites dFdCPD and dFdCTP... thereby decreasing the deoxynucleotide pool available for DNA synthesis and ... is incorporated into DNA , resulting in DNA strand termination and apoptosis.

Inside the cell the drug is incorporated in its modified form into the DNA strands and leads to cell death.


topotecan selectively stabilizes topoisomerase I-DNA covalent complexes, inhibiting religation of topoisomerase I-mediated single-strand DNA breaks and producing potentially lethal double-strand DNA breaks when complexes are encountered by the DNA replication machinery.

Breaks in the strands of DNA caused by the topotecan prevents the DNA from replicating correctly and cell reproduction is inhibited.


etoposide binds to and inhibits topoisomerase II and its function in ligating cleaved DNA molecules, resulting in the accumulation of single- or double-strand DNA breaks, the inhibition of DNA replication and transcription, and apoptotic cell death.

Etoposide causes breaks in the DNA thereby affecting cell reproduction and leads to cell death.

Bevacizumab ( Avastin)

Bevacizumab binds to VEGF and inhibits VEGF receptor binding, thereby preventing the growth and maintenance of tumor blood vessels.

Cancer cells create blood vessels. Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to the vascular endothelial growth factor which helps create and maintain those cancer cell's blood vessels.

Every Day is a Blessing!


OCWarrior1026 said...

GREAT post. Thank you for answering a question I've tried to discover. :-)

Beth said...

My chemo drugs were Paclitaxel and Carboplatin. I just finished my 6-cycle chemo but I never checked on said drugs and completely relied on my doctor.

I also realized after reading your post that even if I researched it, I would not completely understand either on how it works... All I want is for it to work!

Likewise, aside from my regular chemo IV meds, my doctor also prescribed Zilongjin. It is a Chinese medicine adjuvant for chemotherapy. Can't read Chinese and I don't even know what adjuvant is but likewise trust that it will work.