AstraZeneca Turn Back to Olaparib After Promising Latest Research

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Late last year AstraZeneca stated they would not be proceeding with research into olaparib, a novel therapy for the treatment of ovarian cancer after disappointing results. But now, after further study, olaparib is back in the good books after its specialism has been discovered and it’s usage reevaluated.

Olaparib burst onto the scene with much promise but its results just didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Part of the problem here is the fact that olaparib is much more specialized than was previously realized. Far from being a blanket drug, effective on a wide range of cancers, it has been found to work on only a small percentage of cases. After coming out of the final Phase II trial it will have to undergo, it has been shown to be beneficial in 30-40% of women who suffer from this particular type of ovarian cancer.

The study drug is a Poly (ADP-ribose) Polymerase (PARP-1) inhibitor. PARP-1 itself is an enzyme that repairs DNA. In particular, it repairs the DNA of cancer cells within the body, allowing cancer cells to continue to grow. By stopping the PARP-1s ability to do this, the cancer will stop growing as it’s cells die off and it may even shrink, leading to a remission.

The medication is administered as a tablet and side effects are reported to be mild, including nausea, loss of appetite and fatigue. Early trials were very broad in their approach to olaparib which is thought to be the reason why its effectiveness looked somewhat drab. In fact it is only beneficial on patients whose cancer has a mutation of a gene called BRCA. Around 10% of patients with ovarian cancer have the BRCA mutation so the study drug could still prove to be highly beneficial. Cancer is not a single-disease, so niche, targeted medications are often much more effective than broad ones.

It is thought that with further development, olaparib may be also be beneficial in the treatment of breast cancer as 5% of sufferers have the same BRCA mutation. There could even be opportunities for the drug to be used in the treatment of some types of prostate, bowel and lung cancer for the same reason.

There is still a long way to go, but the news will certainly be welcomed by AstraZeneca themselves as they are keen to push themselves into the oncology market. Having already spent £183million pounds on the drug, its shelving last year was a blow not just to the company but also to the researchers involved.

To read more about the research, please click here:

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/ovary/uk-ovarian-cancer-statistics

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/cancer-questions/can-you-tell-me-about-olaparib

http://www.parp-inhibitors.com/olaparib.html

Image of PARP-1 provided courtesy of vdsstream.wikispaces

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