Green light for first treatment to target ovarian cancer with BRCA mutation

Lynparza is the first treatment to target forms of ovarian cancer carrying a BRCA mutation.


The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended that Lynparza (olaparib) be approved to combat a type of ovarian cancer for which there are limited treatment options.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women in the UK. Mortality is high because there are no symptoms in its early stages so most patients are diagnosed at a late stage of the disease. While a significant proportion of women respond initially to chemotherapy, most relapse and then respond poorly to subsequent chemotherapy.

At its October 2014 meeting, the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommended that a marketing authorisation be granted for the use of Lynparza 50mg hard capsules in patients with epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer and a mutation in one of two BRCA genes, who had relapsed but previously responded to platinum-based chemotherapy.

Lynparza (AstraZeneca) is the first of a new class of medicines that blocks the action of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) proteins and the first treatment to target forms of ovarian cancer carrying a BRCA mutation.

PARP proteins help to repair damaged DNA. DNA can also be repaired by a process known as homologous recombination repair (HRR), but this requires functional BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Lynparza works by blocking the PARP proteins so damaged DNA in a tumour cell cannot be repaired. The tumour cell dies, hopefully reducing tumour size or slowing tumour growth.

Alan Ashworth, professor of molecular biology at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, whose work underpinned the development of olaparib, said: “PARP inhibitors work by exploiting a weakness in cells with mutations to the BRCA genes. One of their strengths is that they kill cancer cells much more than healthy cells, and so cause fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapies.”

The most common side effects of olaparib are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, fatigue, headache, dysgeusia, decreased appetite, dizziness, anaemia, neutropenia, lymphopenia, corpuscular volume elevation, and increase in creatinine.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 8 November 2014, Vol 293, No 7835;293(7835):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066968

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