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Study: Quality of life for people with early-stage breast cancer who participated in the OlympiA clinical trial

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At a glance Clinical trials
Study findings Guidelines
Strengths and limitations Questions for your doctor
What does this mean for me? Resources



What is this study about?

The OlympiA study is looking at the effects of one year of treatment with the olaparib (Lynparza) for people with an inherited or mutation who have breast cancer with a high risk for recurrence. Early positive results from OlympiA were presented at the June 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference. Read our XRAY review about those OlympiA trial results here. Based on results from the OlympiA Study, on March 11, 2022 the approved as treatment for people with an inherited mutation who have been diagnosed with HER2-negative breast cancer and are at high risk for recurrence. 

Researchers also looked at participants’ quality of life during the study and presented these results at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December 2021. The quality of life results are summarized in this XRAY review. 

Why is this study important?

Based on the early results of OlympiA, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) updated their guidelines on the treatment of hereditary breast cancer. Guidelines now recommend a year of treatment with after the completion of chemotherapy for people with an in or who have been diagnosed with HER2-negative breast cancer.  Researchers were interested in learning if there were differences in quality of life for participants in OlympiA who received compared to participants who received .

Study findings

Participants in the OlympiA trial had chemotherapy (before surgery or radiation) or (after surgery).  Participants received (Lynparza) or for one year after chemotherapy.

While improved disease-free survival among OlympiA participants, several significant side effects were associated with , as well as other PARP inhibitors.  For example, almost 70 percent of patients who take experience nausea and fatigue. 

Patient-reported outcomes suggest that:

  • Overall, was well tolerated and did not reduce quality of life or changes in recovery from chemotherapy.

Participants who received reported:

  • Slightly more fatigue at 6 and 12 months compared to those who received a .
    • Fatigue slowly improved. At 18 and 24 months no differences were seen between groups (those taking versus ).
  • Slightly more nausea/vomiting at 6 and 12 months compared to those who received a .
    • Nausea/vomiting slowly improved. At 18 and 24 months no differences were seen between groups.
  • No differences in diarrhea.
  • No differences in overall quality of life, physical or mental functioning.
    • A gradual improvement of these factors was observed in both groups over 24 months.
      • This was expected because all patients had to recover from intensive chemotherapy, radiation and surgery prior to treatment with or .

Strengths and limitations


  • OlympiA is a large, international, phase 3, , study that was powered to show overall survival, disease-free survival, safety and quality of life outcomes.
  • The study built on prior research that showed benefited people with an inherited and mutation who had advanced breast cancer.


  • Quality of life results were self-reported, which may be biased.
  • OlympiA is being conducted in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Preliminary results did not mention race and ethnicity. This is important because mutations in the or genes can be prevalent among certain racial and ethnic groups. While there is no indication that would affect outcomes differently in some racial groups, specific data from this study is lacking.

What does this mean for me?

If you have a or mutation and have been diagnosed with HER2-negative breast cancer with a high risk for recurrence, you may benefit from one year of maintenance treatment with . If you do not know whether you have a or mutation, genetic testing may help you learn if you might benefit from additional treatment with .

is FDA-approved to treat certain types of breast cancer. Because this approval does not include therapy in people with a or mutation with breast cancer, some health plans may not cover the cost for this treatment.

If you are treated with as , you can expect to have slightly more fatigue, nausea and vomiting (statistically significant in this study) at 6 and 12 months compared to those who do not use as . While not significantly different between groups ( versus ), quality of life scores (e.g., physical and emotional function) as well as overall health, slowly improved during the 24 months after treatment in all patients.


Some of the most common chemotherapy side effects include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, hair loss, chemobrain (forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating), changes in appetite and/or weight and (chronic painful swelling). However, most patients recover from the effects of chemotherapy within one to two years after treatment.

It is important to know whether additional treatment or , which is sometimes added after chemotherapy is completed, could worsen or delay recovery.

is an oral medication that has been shown to improve treatment outcomes for patients with inherited breast cancer. Importantly, when used as after completion of chemotherapy, it does not appear to significantly worsen side effects related to chemotherapy. 


Current data from the OlympiA Trial suggests that olaparib was effective in reducing recurrence and of cancer and cancer-related death in patients with a or 2 mutation.

In a follow-up quality-of-life study, using for one year after completion of chemotherapy did not worsen chemotherapy related side effects. By two years, chemotherapy-related side effects were similar between participants taking and those taking .

These findings suggest that more treatment options may be available for people with mutations who have been diagnosed with HER2-negative breast cancer.  



Ganz PA, on behalf of the OlympiA Steering Committee Members and Trial Investigators. Quality of Life Results from OlympiA: A phase III, multicenter, , trial of olaparib after (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with germline BRCA1/2 mutations and high-risk HER-2 negative early breast cancer. 2021 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium; December 7-10, 2021; San Antonio, Texas. Abstract number GS4-09.

Disclosure: FORCE receives funding from industry sponsors, including companies that manufacture cancer drugs, tests and devices. All XRAYS articles are written independently of any sponsor and are reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board prior to publication to assure scientific integrity.


Share your thoughts on this XRAY review by taking our brief survey.  

posted 2/22/22

This article is relevant for:

People with inherited mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 who have been diagnosed with early-stage, HER2-negative breast cancer.

This article is also relevant for:

people with breast cancer

people with a genetic mutation linked to cancer risk

Be part of XRAY:

Expert Guidelines
Expert Guidelines

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has guidelines on treating breast cancer in people with an inherited or mutation, with early-onset breast cancer. For people who are at high risk for recurrence, NCCN recommens considering a year of with after chemotherapy is completed.  

Updated: 06/06/2022

Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Questions To Ask Your Doctor

  • Are PARP inhibitors recommended for my type of breast cancer?
  • What side effects are associated with PARP inhibitors?
  • Will using a worsen my treatment-related side effects?
  • How can I reduce side effects related to treatments or PARP inhibitors?
  • How long will I have to use PARP inhibitors?
  • Will my insurance pay for treatment?
  • I have a mutation in a gene other than or BRCA2; will PARP inhibitors help treat my cancer?

Peer Support
Peer Support

The following organizations offer peer support services for people with, or at high risk for breast cancer:

Updated: 05/07/2024

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