Public Release:  Disease-free survival estimates for ovarian cancer improve over time

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

SAN DIEGO, April 4, 2014 - The probability of staying disease-free improves dramatically for ovarian cancer patients who already have been disease-free for a period of time, and time elapsed since remission should be taken into account when making follow-up care decisions, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), a partner with UPMC CancerCenter. The findings will be presented Wednesday at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2014.

A patient's prognosis traditionally is determined when they are diagnosed with a disease or when they become disease-free. However, for patients who already have survived or been disease-free for a number of years, these estimates may no longer be accurate because prognosis usually improves over time. Determining a prognosis that takes into account time elapsed since remission may be a more accurate benchmark. This measure is known as conditional disease-free survival.

"Having more accurate information about the risk of recurrence will allow patients and clinicians to make better informed decisions regarding follow-up care after cancer treatment. It also may lead to patients having a better quality of life because a more accurate diagnosis can ease their fears about the cancer coming back," said Brenda Diergaarde, Ph.D., UPCI researcher.

In the study, researchers estimated disease-free survival and conditional disease-free survival for 404 ovarian cancer patients who had achieved remission and whose information was collected as part of the Hormones and Ovarian Cancer Prediction (HOPE) case-control study.

The researchers found disease-free survival estimates for ovarian cancer patients improved dramatically over time, in particular among those with poorer initial prognoses. At time of remission, the probability of staying disease-free for three more years was 48 percent. This increased to 98 percent for patients who had remained disease-free for five years after remission.

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Additional contributors to the study were Joel L. Weissfeld, M.D., Janet M. Catov, Ph.D., Marnie Bertolet, Ph.D., Francesmary Modugno, Ph.D., Clareann H. Bunker, Ph.D, and Michelle L. Kurta, Ph.D., all of the Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health; Robert P. Edwards, M.D., and Kathleen McDonough, Ph.D., both of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute; Kirsten B. Moysich, Ph.D., Roswell Park Cancer Institute; and Roberta B. Ness, M.D., School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center.

The research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01 CA095023, R01 CA126841, P30 CA047904 and R25 CA057703. 

About UPCI

As the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in western Pennsylvania, UPCI is a recognized leader in providing innovative cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment; biomedical research; compassionate patient care and support; and community-based outreach services. Investigators at UPCI, a partner with UPMC CancerCenter, are world-renowned for their work in clinical and basic cancer research.

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