Treatments for recurrent ovarian cancer

Recurrent ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer that has come back is called recurrent ovarian cancer.

If it is at least six months since you were first treated for ovarian cancer, then you are likely to be offered carboplatin and paclitaxel (Taxol) as an option.  This will be because you responded well to it the first time you were treated with it.  However there are other treatments you may be offered:

  • Paclitaxel (Taxol) on its own
  • Topotecan
  • Liposomal doxorubicin (called Caelyx)
  • Other drugs may be used alone or in combination

It is worth discussing the range of options open to you with your medical team, and discussing the purpose of treatment.  At this point in time, containing rather than curing the disease is sometimes the main priority, or slowing the progress of the disease, or in some cases symptom management.

If it is less than six months since you were first treated for ovarian cancer, then you are likely to receive different chemotherapy drugs to the ones used in 'first line' treatment.  That means different to the first type of treatment you were given.

  • Paclitaxel (Taxol) - alone, if you did not have it as part of your first treatment
  • Liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx)
  • Topotecan (Hycamtin)

Which drug is offered will depend on your general state of health, how you responded initially to treatment and particular details relating to the spread of the disease.

These are the drugs approved by NICE (The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) for use by the NHS in England and Wales.  They reach their decision by looking at how well a drug works, and the benefits of the treatment in relation to the cost to the NHS.  This guidance is to be reviewed within the next year or so.

For more detailed information about these drugs and their side effects we recommend visiting the Cancer Research UK site.

Other drugs may be offered, most likely within the context of a clinical trial.  If you live in England, your clinician may be able to provide access to new drugs not necessarily as part of a clinical trial, or those not considered cost effective by the NHS.  For more information on how this process works, and what drugs have already been accessed visit our page on the Cancer Drugs Fund.

last reviewed: January 2012
next reviewed: January 2014