Olaparib is a member of the poly-ADP ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors and may work as a treatment for certain types of breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. PARP is involved in repairing DNA damage. By inhibiting PARP, rapidly growing cells such as those in cancer may accumulate damage or be more susceptible to death from traditional treatment.
Several studies have shown impressive results for the PARP family of medications. Results, however, have mostly been in people with BRCA1 or 2 mutations. This is good and bad.
It’s good in that BRCA mutations are associated with a very high risk of developing cancer. A woman with BRCA mutations, for instance, has a 50-70% chance of developing breast cancer by age 60.
And bad in that this limits the potential clinical uses.
A recent stage I clinical trial of Olaparib had very high objective response in women with BRCA mutations – 12/19 had some sort of response or delayed tumor progression.
The same study had no objective response in women without the mutation. Olaparib was generally safe and well tolerated, albeit for a short period of time.
While that study is very promising, it is important not to lose sight of the small numbers involved, the lack of a control group and the very long road Olaparib has to take and that it may turn out to not be effective.
Olaparib and its family of medications, the PARP inhibitors, may play a role in treating triple-negative breast cancers, which currently have no tailored treatment.
At the moment, phase II trials are being run for Olaparib for breast, ovarian and colorectal cancer.