Because of poor overall survival in advanced ovarian malignancies, patients often turn to alternative therapies despite controversy surrounding their use. Currently, the majority of cancer patients combine some form of complementary and alternative medicine with conventional therapies. Of these therapies, antioxidants, added to chemotherapy, are a frequent choice.
For this preliminary report, two patients with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer were studied. One patient had Stage IIIC papillary serous adenocarcinoma, and the other had Stage IIIC mixed papillary serous and seromucinous adenocarcinoma. Both patients were optimally cytoreduced prior to first-line carboplatinum/paclitaxel chemotherapy. Patient 2 had a delay in initiation of chemotherapy secondary to co-morbid conditions and had evidence for progression of disease prior to institution of therapy. Patient 1 began oral high-dose antioxidant therapy during her first month of therapy. This consisted of oral vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, coenzyme Q-10 and a multivitamin/mineral complex. In addition to the oral antioxidant therapy, patient 1 added parenteral ascorbic acid at a total dose of 60 grams given twice weekly at the end of her chemotherapy and prior to consolidation paclitaxel chemotherapy. Patient 2 added oral antioxidants just prior to beginning chemotherapy, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, coenzyme Q-10 and a multivitamin/mineral complex. Patient 2 received six cycles of paclitaxel/carboplatinum chemotherapy and refused consolidation chemotherapy despite radiographic evidence of persistent disease. Instead, she elected to add intravenous ascorbic acid at 60 grams twice weekly. Both patients gave written consent for the use of their records in this report.
Patient 1 had normalization of her CA-125 after the first cycle of chemotherapy and has remained normal, almost 3(1/2) years after diagnosis. CT scans of the abdomen and pelvis remain without evidence of recurrence. Patient 2 had normalization of her CA-125 after the first cycle of chemotherapy. After her first round of chemotherapy, the patient was noted to have residual disease in the pelvis. She declined further chemotherapy and added intravenous ascorbic acid. There is no evidence for recurrent disease by physical examination, and her CA-125 has remained normal three years after diagnosis.
Antioxidants, when added adjunctively, to first-line chemotherapy, may improve the efficacy of chemotherapy and may prove to be safe. A review of four common antioxidants follows. Because of the positive results found in these two patients, a randomized controlled trial is now underway at the University of Kansas Medical Center evaluating safety and efficacy of antioxidants when added to chemotherapy in newly diagnosed ovarian cancer.