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Intraperitoneal chemotherapy for treatment of ovarian cancer

Joan L Walker, MD
Maurie Markman, MD
Section Editor
Barbara Goff, MD
Deputy Editor
Don S Dizon, MD, FACP


The most common route of ovarian cancer spread is within the peritoneal cavity. The benefit of administering chemotherapy directly into the peritoneal cavity is supported by preclinical and pharmacokinetic data. Compared with intravenous (IV) treatment, intraperitoneal (IP) administration permits a several-fold increase in drug concentration to be achieved within the abdominal cavity.

There is now a growing body of evidence showing a survival advantage for IP cisplatin as compared with IV administration of platinum along with intravenous taxane-based chemotherapy in women with optimally cytoreduced (to <1.0 cm) stage III epithelial ovarian cancer. The publication of results from the most recent of these trials, Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) trial 172 [1], led the US National Cancer Institute to issue a Clinical Alert in January of 2006, strongly encouraging the use of IP chemotherapy in this subset of patients [2]. A reassessment of prognostic factors associated with survival from both GOG 172 and 114 demonstrated a median overall survival on the IP arm of 110 months for stage III patients completely resected to no residual disease, compared with 82.4 months when treated intravenously [3]. GOG 172 IP arm was even better with a median survival of 128 months. Age and histology were associated with survival. Patients with resected positive lymph nodes benefited from IP chemotherapy. Patients with unevaluated retroperitoneal nodes had the worst survival, but also benefited from IP chemotherapy. The Society of Gynecologic Oncology has made the offering and delivery of IP chemotherapy a quality indicator for ovarian cancer care. Many oncologists are reluctant to deliver IP chemotherapy. However, while the use of IP chemotherapy is gaining acceptance, it is not universal, largely due to the greater toxicity associated with this approach. The data supporting IP chemotherapy as an alternative to IV chemotherapy and the controversy surrounding its use are presented elsewhere. (See "First-line chemotherapy for advanced (stage III or IV) epithelial ovarian, fallopian tubal, and peritoneal cancer", section on 'Intraperitoneal chemotherapy'.)

The management of women receiving IP chemotherapy for ovarian cancer, including issues relating to placement of intraperitoneal catheters, will be reviewed here. Surgical therapy and initial chemotherapy for advanced ovarian cancer are discussed separately. (See "Cancer of the ovary, fallopian tube, and peritoneum: Staging and initial surgical management" and "First-line chemotherapy for advanced (stage III or IV) epithelial ovarian, fallopian tubal, and peritoneal cancer".)


Epithelial ovarian cancer is a disease of the ovarian surface epithelium. In the vast majority of patients, the disease is confined to the peritoneal cavity at initial diagnosis and in recurrence [4]. Because of this natural history, ovarian cancer is an ideal target for intraperitoneal (IP) therapy. Subsequent studies demonstrated that IP administration of chemotherapy results in high peritoneal to plasma ratios for peak concentration, including for cisplatin, paclitaxel, carboplatin, and docetaxel [5]. Of these agents, cisplatin has been the most extensively studied and clinical studies have confirmed its activity in the front-line treatment of ovarian cancer. (See "First-line chemotherapy for advanced (stage III or IV) epithelial ovarian, fallopian tubal, and peritoneal cancer", section on 'Intraperitoneal chemotherapy'.)


Despite the regional advantage of IP chemotherapy, penetration into tumor tissue is limited to a few millimeters of tumor on the peritoneal surface layers and these approaches are best suited to patients with minimal residual disease after surgical cytoreduction. A significant obstacle to realizing the survival benefit from IP chemotherapy is the wide variation in the proportion of women who undergo complete cytoreductive surgery to no residual disease. As an example, in a meta-analysis of 6685 women treated in the platinum era, optimal surgical resection was only carried out in 42 percent of cases [6]. Although rates of optimal cytoreduction are significantly higher when trained gynecologic oncologists perform the surgery (75 percent or higher), patterns of care studies suggest that only about 50 percent of patients being treated for ovarian cancer are treated by gynecologic oncologists [7,8]. (See "Cancer of the ovary, fallopian tube, and peritoneum: Staging and initial surgical management", section on 'Cytoreduction'.)


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Literature review current through: Apr 2015. | This topic last updated: Oct 10, 2013.
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