Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found that hormone therapy treatment can extend the life of sufferers and offers a new alternative to chemotherapy.
The study, published in Clinical Cancer Research, shows for the first time that the targeted use of an antioestrogen drug can help prolong the life of patients by up to three years. It also delayed the use of chemotherapy in others.
The treatment, known as Letrozole hormone therapy, has already been used with great success to tackle breast tumours.
It attacks cancer by turning off the supply of the hormone oestrogen - a substance essential for the growth of some cancers.
Scientists now believe that in those ovarian cancers which are highly sensitive to oestrogen, this blocking mechanism could slow the growth and spread of disease.
The study was funded by Cancer Research UK and involved 44 women who were sensitive to oestrogen and whose cancer had relapsed after surgery and chemotherapy.
They discovered that one quarter of the women showed no tumour growth after six months of antioestrogen therapy, and 33% of the group most sensitive to oestrogen showed a positive response allowing chemotherapy to be delayed.
Professor John F Smyth, who is professor of Medical Oncology at Edinburgh University, led the research programme.
He said: "This study suggests that the addition of hormone therapy to our treatment strategy could extend and improve the lives of women with cancer."