Amgen, a large biotechnology company out of Thousand Oaks, Calif. has announced that its drug for reoccurring ovarian cancer has shown positive results in Phase III clinical trials. The trials sought to stop the progression of ovarian cancer and extend life in patients, in comparison to placebo controls.

The drug targets a pathway in which cancer cells release factors that encourage the growth of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. By blocking this process, cancers can be starved of much need nutrients, a valuable therapeutic approach that almost every large company developing cancer treatments is looking into. The aim is to also limit metastasis of cancer cells through the cardiovascular system and lymphatic system, preventing their spread through the body.

Approximately 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 70 percent of women with ovarian cancer will present with advanced disease at diagnosis and up to 80 percent of them will experience disease recurrence and eventually die from their disease.

In the clinical trial, patients received the drug experimental trebananib in combination with paclitaxel, a common cancer chemotherapeutic agent also known as Taxol. Progression of the disease was stopped for an average of 7.2 months, compared to the average of 5.4 months with placebo treatment. Although, in the beginning of the trial, there were fewer deaths seen in the control group, the company stated, "A favorable trend was seen, though, and investigators expect to garner final OS [overall survival] data in 2014."

"The TRINOVA-1 study is the first of three Phase III trials designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of trebananib in patients with ovarian cancer," said Dr. Sean Harper, executive vice president of R&D at Amgen. "Angiopoietin inhibition has been a focus of research at Amgen and these results suggest that the novel biology of trebananib may offer a promising approach for patients with ovarian cancer."

Trebananib is designed to bind to both the proteins angiopoietin-1 and -2 (Ang1 and Ang2), and inhibit their interaction with the Tie2 receptor. This process blocks the initiating factors that encourage the growth of new blood vessels. While Ang1 impacts blood vessel quality, Ang2 influences vessel quantity. These proteins are known to act in in lymphangiogenesis, or the formation of new lymphatic vessels, which plays a key role in tumor metastasis.

A clinical trial called TRINOVA-2 is ongoing with the same medication to investigate its abilities in recurrent epithelial ovarian, primary peritoneal, or fallopian tube cancer. The TRINOVA-3 clinical trial for the drug is evaluating its usefulness in first-line treatment of epithelial ovarian, primary peritoneal, or fallopian tube cancer.

To view clinical trials currently underway, please visit the website.