The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has for the first time approved a breakthrough ovarian cancer drug from the first round of treatment. Olaparib (Lynparza®) is one of a new generation of drugs known as PARP inhibitors, which work by stopping cancer cells from repairing themselves, effectively crippling them.
Who could have access to olaparib?
Women who have advanced ovarian cancer, a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and have had one round of chemotherapy. In the year ahead, 360 women in England could start to access olaparib. Around 6,780 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in England.
Today’s announcement makes it the first PARP inhibitor available to this group of women from the first round of treatment. It will be available in this form on England’s Cancer Drugs Fund until 2023. Olaparib had previously been available to a small number of women who have advanced ovarian cancer and a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, from after a third round of chemotherapy treatment.
Why is this significant?
Accessing ovarian cancer drugs earlier means women have a better chance of surviving ovarian cancer from the outset. Eleven women die every day from ovarian cancer, and two thirds (66 per cent) are diagnosed once the cancer has already spread (stage II-IV), making it harder to treat and more likely to come back. Olaparib is significant because it could help women with ovarian cancer, who have very few different treatment options, to survive for longer.
Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “For the first time women with a BRCA mutation will be able to access this gamechanging new generation of ovarian cancer drugs, the PARP inhibitors, from their first round of treatment. For many women this represents a long overdue improvement and we look forward to a future where all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, regardless of BRCA status, have multiple treatment options.”
Petrina Powell, from Liverpool, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018 and has been taking olaparib since February 2019 – just after her first round of chemotherapy treatment. She said: “Olaparib has been lifechanging. Despite experiencing some side effects, it is much less invasive and time consuming than IV chemotherapy, and gives me quality time to spend with my son and daughter. It’s given me hope for the future.”
What about other areas of the UK?
Target Ovarian Cancer has championed better access to PARP inhibitors and was an expert witness on the NICE committee for olaparib, representing the views of women with ovarian cancer. Today's news is about access to olaparib in England. It will be available in a similar way in Wales and Northern Ireland soon. In Scotland it is under review by the Scottish Medicines Consortium, with a decision expected in late 2019. We will bring news and updates on social media, in our enewsletter and on our website as we have it.