PARP stands for poly ADP-ribose polymerase, a protein that helps to repair damaged cells. A PARP inhibitor works by stopping the PARP protein from repairing cancer cells, causing the cell to die.
They are used following chemotherapy and are intended to maintain the benefit of treatment. This way of using medication is termed as maintenance treatment or maintenance therapy.
PARP inhibitors are most effective in women with a BRCA mutation (the BRCA mutation means cells already struggle to repair themselves so are more vulnerable). There is evidence that they can be helpful to women without a BRCA mutation but may be less effective.
The PARP inhibitors currently available are olaparib (Lynparza®) and niraparib (Zejula®).
VEGF stands for vascular endothelial growth factor, which is a protein produced by cells to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. Tumours need a good blood supply to provide their cells with nutrients and oxygen, so that the tumour can grow in size. If the blood supply to the tumour is restricted, the cancer can’t grow and progress of the disease is halted.
A VEGF Inhibitor works by blocking the action of VEGF and so prevents the tumour developing a good blood supply.
Bevacizumab (Avastin®) is a VEGF inhibitor currently available to some women with advanced ovarian cancer.
Immunotherapy enables the body to start fighting the tumour itself. It does this by enabling our immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells.
There are not yet any ovarian cancer immunotherapy treatments but the JAVELIN trial has been looking at the use of Avelumab in the treatment of ovarian cancer and should be reporting shortly.