BRCA-targeting drugs could treat prostate cancer, leading expert says

November 5, 2014, Institute of Cancer Research, London

A pioneering cancer drug set to become the first to be approved specifically for inherited cancers could also be used much more widely to treat prostate cancer, a world-leading expert said today.

Delegates at the UK's leading annual cancer conference heard that olaparib, which last month was recommended for approval for women with ovarian cancer and inherited BRCA mutations, is also showing promise in advanced .

Professor Johann de Bono, leader of a succession of major international prostate cancer trials, told the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool that the PARP inhibitor olaparib could be effective against prostate tumours that harboured particular gene mutations, even where the damaged genes were not inherited.

Professor de Bono, Professor of Experimental Cancer Therapeutics at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Honorary Consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said some with advanced, aggressive prostate cancer were having impressive responses to PARP inhibitor treatment.

Olaparib was recommended for approval by the European Medicines Agency only last month for BRCA-mutated patients with platinum-sensitive, relapsed ovarian cancer – a significant ruling and the first of its type for a drug targeted at an inherited genetic fault. Professor de Bono's team was the first to demonstrate the anti-tumour activity of olaparib in BRCA-mutated patients with ovarian and breast cancers.

But early clinical trials are now also testing olaparib and other PARP inhibitors – which work by exploiting a weakness in cancer cells' DNA repair machinery – in patients with a variety of other advanced cancers. These include patients who have not inherited BRCA mutations, but do carry mutations to DNA repair genes within their tumours.

Professor de Bono said these trials could ultimately expand access to PARP inhibitors to many more patients. He said it was now possible to test for DNA repair mutations in tumours, monitoring patients during the course of treatment to select the patients most likely to respond to treatments like PARP inhibitors based on the genetic profile of their tumour.

The first part of a phase II trial called TO-PARP, led by researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, has assessed olaparib in advanced prostate cancer.

The first part of the trial, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, Stand Up To Cancer, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Prostate Cancer UK and the Movember Foundation, has closed and researchers are analysing the results.

Professor Johann de Bono, Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Honorary Consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said:

"Although PARP inhibitors like olaparib have generally been trialled in women with inherited BRCA mutations, these exciting new trials could give them a whole other lease of life in advanced prostate cancer, and other tumours with DNA repair . It is too early to say whether they will prove to be beneficial in prostate cancer, but the initial results from our preliminary trials have been encouraging.

"A major benefit of using PARP inhibitors is that they preferentially kill cells while sparing normal cells, causing fewer side-effects than traditional chemotherapies. The challenge will now be to bring the 'matching' of drugs depending on the genetic profiles of patients and their tumours – which is already a reality for trials at some research centres like ours – into routine clinical practice."

Explore further: Targeted treatment plus chemotherapy could benefit women with ovarian cancer

Related Stories

Targeted treatment plus chemotherapy could benefit women with ovarian cancer

October 11, 2013
Conventional chemotherapy could further extend life in some women with ovarian cancer when used in tandem with a new type of targeted treatment, a new international study shows.

New cancer drug shows potential in patients with BRCA mutations

June 6, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A new cancer drug designed to be effective in tumours with faulty BRCA genes has generated impressive responses in an early-stage clinical trial.

Potential breast cancer drug performs well in early clinical trials

June 3, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A drug previously studied to improve chemotherapy may be effective in treating patients with cancers related to the BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutations, as well as patients with BRCA-like breast cancers, according ...

Olaparib shows promise in treating ovarian cancer, even without BRCA mutations

August 21, 2011
The PARP inhibitor, olaparib, that has shown promise in women with an inherited mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene (accounting for about 5-10% of breast and ovarian cancer cases), has, for the first time, been shown to ...

New mechanism of action for PARP inhibitors discovered

November 9, 2012
New understanding of how drugs called PARP inhibitors, which have already shown promise for the treatment of women with familial breast and ovarian cancers linked to BRCA mutations, exert their anticancer effects has led ...

PARP inhibitor shows activity in pancreatic, prostate cancers among patients carrying BRCA mutations

May 15, 2013
In the largest clinical trial to date to examine the efficacy of PARP inhibitor therapy in BRCA 1/2 carriers with diseases other than breast and ovarian cancer, the oral drug olaparib was found to be effective against advanced ...

Recommended for you

More than 2,500 cancer cases a week could be avoided

March 23, 2018
More than 135,500 cases of cancer a year in the UK could be prevented through lifestyle changes, according to new figures from a Cancer Research UK landmark study published today.

Metastatic lymph nodes can be the source of distant metastases in mouse models of cancer

March 22, 2018
A study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators finds that, in mouse models, cancer cells from metastatic lymph nodes can escape into the circulation by invading nodal blood vessels, leading to the development ...

Could a pap test spot more than just cervical cancer?

March 22, 2018
Pap tests have helped drive down rates of cervical cancer, and a new study suggests they also could be used to detect other gynecologic cancers early.

Researchers identify compound to prevent breast cancer cells from activating in brain

March 22, 2018
Researchers at Houston Methodist used computer modeling to find an existing investigational drug compound for leukemia patients to treat triple negative breast cancer once it spreads to the brain.

Researchers examine role of fluid flow in ovarian cancer progression

March 22, 2018
New research from Virginia Tech is moving physicians closer to pinpointing a predictor of ovarian cancer, which could lead to earlier diagnosis of what is know as the "silent killer."

Gene-based test for urine detects, monitors bladder cancer

March 22, 2018
Researchers at The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have developed a test for urine, gathered during a routine procedure, to detect DNA mutations identified with urothelial cancers.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.