In the news today: the makers of ovarian cancer drug olaparib (Lynparza®) have announced results of a clinical trial showing that the drug is effective in a new group of people - women with ovarian cancer who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, who have just completed first-line chemotherapy.
Olaparib for newly diagnosed women with ovarian cancer
Today’s results are an exciting step forward in the treatment of ovarian cancer. While recent announcements have focused on options for women for whom the cancer has come back, this is a potential new treatment option for women who have just been diagnosed and are having their first round of chemotherapy. Olaparib is a maintenance treatment, meaning it maintains the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.
Today’s results are from the SOLO I trial which has been looking at the use of olaparib in treating women with a BRCA mutation. Olaparib is a PARP inhibitor and this type of treatment is particularly effective in women with a BRCA mutation as it means the tumour’s DNA is already faulty, making it more susceptible to the treatment. Results from the trial released today show that olaparib may significantly improve progression-free survival – the amount of time someone remains free of cancer following treatment.
Currently olaparib is only available to women with a BRCA mutation whose disease has returned and who have already had several rounds of treatment. An application for olaparib to be used in newly diagnosed ovarian cancer is currently being considered by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), which decides on whether new treatments can be funded by the NHS.
Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “Today’s announcement is a truly remarkable milestone in the fight against ovarian cancer, the first time a new generation of treatments has been shown to be effective in newly diagnosed women with a BRCA mutation. It also represents an unprecedented improvement in progression-free survival in the disease. It is now essential that women throughout the UK can access olaparib (Lynparza®) on the NHS.”
Genetic testing: doing it right
Everyone diagnosed with the most common form of ovarian cancer is eligible for genetic testing to find out if they have a BRCA mutation. This is a genetic mutation which is inherited and can be passed on to children. A BRCA mutation can be passed down on either the father or the mother’s side of the family and significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Target Ovarian Cancer is clear that all women with ovarian cancer must be offered specialist genetic counselling before deciding to proceed with testing to help them prepare for how they will feel if they find out they carry a BRCA mutation. It is vital that women receive the appropriate support and that this is maintained even as testing becomes more common.