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Research & Clinical Trials

FORCE has a strong commitment to promoting research to benefit our community. We advocate for more research funding, educate people about available studies, and report findings back to our community.

Research & Clinical Trials > Research Findings > FDA Approves the First PARP Inhibitor

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FDA Approves the First PARP Inhibitor for Treatment of Ovarian Cancer in BRCA Mutation Carriers

by Lisa Rezende, PhD

The FDA has approved Lynparza (also known as olaparib) to treat ovarian, fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal cancer in women who carry mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2, and who have received three or more chemotherapy treatments. Lynparza is the first PARP inhibitor to be approved, and the first drug that requires patients to undergo testing for a BRCA mutation before they can receive it.

PARP inhibitors are a type of “targeted therapy” that is designed to attack the unique weaknesses of certain cancers based on their biology. Cancers that develop in BRCA mutation carriers share a common trait: a weakened DNA repair system. PARP inhibitors make this problem worse for cancer cells by blocking an enzyme called PARP that cells use to repair damaged DNA. In BRCA-related cancers, PARP inhibitors may work by halting cancer cells from dividing, while sparing healthy cells. Clinical trials for PARP inhibitors show that some BRCA mutation carriers who had prior chemotherapy benefited from treatment with PARP inhibitors.

While the approval of Lynparza is a great first step in treating cancers in BRCA mutation carriers, much work remains. Lynparza has been approved for use in ovarian cancer patients who received three prior chemotherapies, making it what is known as a “fourth line” drug. More research is still needed to determine if PARP inhibitors will work in other settings. Ongoing clinical trials are enrolling patients with cancer to answer these questions:

  • Are PARP inhibitors effective for BRCA-associated breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers?
  • Should PARP inhibitors be used alone or in combination with other drugs to treat newly diagnosed cancers in BRCA mutation carriers?
  • Should women diagnosed with ovarian cancer take PARP inhibitors after chemotherapy as “maintenance therapy” to reduce the chances of relapse?
  • Are PARP inhibitors effective for some cancers in people who do not have BRCA mutations?
  • Are some PARP inhibitors more effective or less toxic than others?

FORCE will continue our efforts to help enroll patients in all HBOC clinical trials, to assure that these questions are answered and that the hereditary breast and ovarian cancer community has access to targeted therapies for all cancers associated with BRCA mutations. If you or a family member is interested in participating in a PARP inhibitor trial or another research study, please see our Featured Research page and our HBOC Research Search Tool to find research participation opportunities in your area.

December 26, 2014

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