Targeted therapy for ovarian cancer

Some women with ovarian cancer have targeted therapy. It uses drugs to target specific molecules (such as proteins) on cancer cells or inside them. These molecules help send signals that tell cells to grow or divide. By targeting these molecules, the drugs stop the growth and spread of cancer cells and limit harm to normal cells. Targeted therapy may also be called molecular targeted therapy.

You may have targeted therapy to slow the growth of advanced epithelial ovarian cancer or primary peritoneal carcinoma.

Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the drugs, doses and schedules of targeted therapy. You may also receive other treatments.

Targeted therapy drugs used for ovarian cancer

Olaparib (Lynparza) may be given to those with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. It is usually taken by mouth twice a day. Olaparib may also be given as maintenance therapyfor those (with or without a BRCA mutation) with advanced recurrent ovarian cancer that has responded to chemotherapy with a platinum drug such as carboplatin or cisplatin.

Bevacizumab (Avastin) may be given in combination with platinum drugs such as carboplatin, a taxane drug such as paclitaxel or other chemotherapy drugs at time of diagnosis or recurrence. It is given by IV every 2 to 3 weeks. For recurrent cancer, bevacizumab is usually combined with the chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and pegylated liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx) or topotecan to help the chemotherapy drugs work better.

Niraparib (Zejula) may be used as a maintenance therapy for recurrent epithelial ovarian cancer or recurrent primary peritoneal carcinoma that has responded to chemotherapy with a platinum drug such as carboplatin or cisplatin.

Side effects

Side effects can happen with any type of treatment for ovarian cancer, but everyone’s experience is different. Some women have many side effects. Other women have few or none at all.

Targeted therapy attacks cancer cells but doesn’t usually damage healthy cells, so there are usually fewer and less severe side effects than with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can significantly damage healthy cells along with cancer cells.

If you develop side effects, they can happen any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after targeted therapy. Sometimes late side effects develop months or even years after targeted therapy. Most side effects go away on their own or can be treated, but some side effects may last a long time or become permanent.

Side effects of targeted therapy will depend mainly on the type of drug or combination of drugs, the dose, how it’s given and your overall health. Some common side effects of targeted therapy for ovarian cancer are:

Tell your healthcare team if you have these side effects or others you think might be from targeted therapy. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.

Information about specific cancer drugs

Details on specific drugs change regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.

Questions to ask about targeted therapy

Find out more about targeted therapy. To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about targeted therapy.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Ovarian Cancer. 2014:
  • Cannistra SA, Gershenson DM, Recht A . Ovarian cancer, fallopian tube carcinoma, and peritoneal carcinoma. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 76: 1075-1099.
  • Health Canada. Regulatory Decision Summary Avastin. 2015:
  • Health Canada. Regulatory Decision Summary: Lynparza. 2016:
  • Health Canada. Lynparza - Notice of Compliance with Conditions - Qualifying Notice. Ottawa, ON: Health Canada; 2018.
  • National Cancer Institute. Ovarian Epithelial, Fallopian Tube, and Primary Peritoneal Cancer Treatment for Health Professionals (PDQ®). 2016:

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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