Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial of carboplatin, docetaxel and gemcitabine for ovarian cancer (SCOTROC 2A)
This trial was looking at carboplatin followed by either docetaxel alone or a combination of docetaxel and gemcitabine as treatment for ovarian cancer.
Doctors usually treat ovarian cancer with surgery and chemotherapy. Carboplatin is one of the drugs most often used. In this trial, researchers wanted to see if adding other drugs called docetaxel and gemcitabine would work better.
Giving all 3 drugs at the same time would have been likely to cause too many side effects. So, in this trial, the chemotherapy was ‘sequential’. This means that the women taking part had carboplatin first for 4 cycles of treatment. Then they had 4 more treatment cycles using different combinations of docetaxel and gemcitabine.
The aims of the trial were to
- See if having sequential treatment meant that women were able to complete all 8 cycles of treatment
- Find out which drug combination worked best
- Learn more about the side effects
Summary of results
The trial team found that more than half the women were able to finish all 8 cycles of treatment. And they found that carboplatin followed by docetaxel on its own worked best. Having docetaxel and gemcitabine each week caused the most side effects.
The trial recruited 132 women who were put into 1 of 3 groups. Everybody taking part had 4 cycles of carboplatin. Then for the next 4 cycles of treatment
- Group A had docetaxel once every 3 weeks
- Group B had docetaxel once and gemcitabine twice every 3 weeks
- Group C had weekly docetaxel and gemcitabine
There were 44 women in each group. The number of women who completed all 8 cycles of treatment was
- 31 in group A
- 32 in group B
- 20 in group C
After having the carboplatin, the cancer had responded to treatment in about two thirds of the women that the trial team had results for. After the combination chemotherapy
- Of the 25 women in group A that they had results for, the cancer had got smaller or disappeared in 21, stayed the same size in 2 and got bigger in 2
- Of the 20 women in group B that they had results for, the cancer had got smaller or disappeared in 17, stayed the same size in 2 and got bigger in 1
- Of the 21 women in group C that they had results for, the cancer had got smaller or disappeared in 16, stayed the same size in 2 and got bigger in 3
A drop in white blood cells was the main side effect in all 3 groups. Women in groups B and C had shortness of breath. This was worse for women in group C.
In this trial, the combination of drugs used for the women in group A worked best. The combination of drugs in group C caused the most side effects and fewer women having this regime finished all 8 cycles.
The trial team are involved in a number of other trials looking at different combinations of sequential chemotherapy. They will compare the results of these trials and hope to find a regime that can be tested against the current standard treatment.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Paul Vasey
Eli Lilly and Company Limited
Scottish Gynaecological Cancer Trials Group