Jun 14, 2007
An Edinburgh University study found an anti-oestrogen drug could help prolong patients' lives by up to three years.
It also delayed the need for some patients to undergo chemotherapy.
The professor who led the research programme described its findings as an "important landmark" in the research and treatment of ovarian cancer.
Professor John F Smyth said: "Despite intense scientific research over the past 20 years, there have been few new leads in our understanding of how this disease operates.
"But this study suggests that the addition of hormone therapy to our treatment strategy could extend and improve the lives of women with cancer."
Ovarian cancer affects one in 48 women, with almost 7,000 new cases being diagnosed in the UK every year.
The current treatment involves surgery and chemotherapy, but most ovarian cancers return within two years.
The results of the Edinburgh research, funded by Cancer Research UK, were published in Clinical Cancer Research.
The treatment, known as Letrozole hormone therapy, has already been successful in tackling breast tumours.
It turns off the supply of the hormone oestrogen, a substance which is essential for the growth of some cancers.
The study involved 44 women who were sensitive to oestrogen and whose cancer had relapsed after surgery and chemotherapy.
Scientists were able to track the progress of the tumours during treatment by looking at levels of a molecule in the blood which is secreted by ovarian cancer.
A quarter of the women showed no tumour growth after six months of anti-oestrogen therapy, while 33% of the group most sensitive to oestrogen showed a positive response which allowed chemotherapy to be delayed.