Targeted therapies for ovarian cancer

Targeted therapies interfere with the way tumour cells grow and divide. Find out about the drugs used to treat ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer.

What are targeted therapies?

Targeted therapy uses drugs to find and attack cancer cells. There are different types of targeted therapy drug. Each type targets something in or around the cancer cell that is helping it grow and survive.

About targeted therapy for cancer of the ovary, fallopian tube or peritoneum

Your specialist doctor and nurse will explain which targeted treatment is most suitable for you. You may have targeted therapy drugs for as long as they are keeping the cancer away or controlling it.

We have more general information about targeted therapies.

There are also newer targeted therapy drugs becoming available to treat ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer. You may have targeted therapy as part of a clinical trial.

Some of these drugs may only be available in some situations. Your specialist doctor can tell you if a drug is suitable for you. If a drug is not available to you on the NHS, there may be different ways you can have it. Your specialist doctor can give you advice. 

We have more information about what to do if a treatment is not available.

Bevacizumab (Avastin®)

You may have bevacizumab (Avastin®) if the cancer has spread further in the pelvis. You usually have it every 3 weeks along with chemotherapy. Your nurse will give it into a vein as an infusion (drip).

You carry on having bevacizumab when the chemotherapy has stopped. You may continue to have it for 1 year or longer if it is working for you. This is called maintenance treatment. Sometimes you have bevacizumab along with a PARP inhibitor drug called olaparib as maintenance treatment.

You may also have bevacizumab if the cancer comes back.

PARP inhibitor drugs

These drugs block a protein called PARP (poly-ADP ribose polymerase) which helps damaged cells to repair themselves. Without the PARP protein, the cancer cells may become too damaged to survive.

You start taking PARP inhibitor drugs several weeks after chemotherapy has finished. You take them for as long as they are working for you. This is a type of maintenance treatment. You take them as tablets or capsules every day.

Niraparib (Zejula®)

You may start niraparib after your first course of chemotherapy finishes if the chemotherapy has worked well.

You may also have niraparib if the cancer comes back and further chemotherapy has been helpful.

Olaparib (Lynparza®)

Olaparib stops the PARP protein from helping cancer cells repair a faulty BRCA gene or a certain type of DNA damage.

You may have olaparib after your first course of chemotherapy if:

You may also have olaparib with bevacizumab as maintenance treatment. You will have these after your first course of chemotherapy if:

  • tests show the cancer cells are unable to repair a certain type of DNA damage
  • chemotherapy has worked well. 

If you did not have olaparib during your first treatment, you may have it if the cancer comes back and is responding to further chemotherapy.

Rucaparib (Rubraca®)

Rucaparib is another PARP inhibitor similar to niraparib. You usually only have rucaparib if the cancer comes back and chemotherapy has worked well. Depending on your situation, you may have rucaparib instead of chemotherapy.

Side effects of targeted therapy drugs

Your specialist doctor or nurse will explain the side effects of the drug you are having. You can read about these on the links to the individual drugs.

They will explain how some side effects can be controlled or managed. Always tell them about your side effects, especially if they do not improve or get worse. 

Some general side effects of targeted therapy drugs are:

Rarely, you may have an allergic reaction when you have bevacizumab. This is more likely with the first or second drip, so you have these more slowly. The nurses will monitor you closely.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our ovarian cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Ledermann, Raja, Fotopoulou et al. Newly diagnosed and relapsed epithelial ovarian carcinoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology, 2013; Volume 24, Supplement 6. Updated online 2020. Available from www.esmo.org/guidelines (accessed July 2021)

    Management of epithelial ovarian cancer. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN). Nov 2013 revised 2018. Available from www.sign.ac.uk

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We try to make sure our information is as clear as possible. We use plain English, avoid jargon, explain any medical words, use illustrations to explain text, and make sure important points are highlighted clearly.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected. Our aims are for our information to be as clear and relevant as possible for everyone.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.