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New Cancer Drug Fights Tumors in Those With BRCA Mutations
Date:6/24/2009

Olaparib prevents malignant cells from repairing themselves, researchers say ,,

WEDNESDAY, June 24 (HealthDay News) -- A new cancer drug called olaparib worked well in an early clinical trial against breast, ovarian and prostate cancers in individuals who were genetically vulnerable to developing these malignancies.

Women who carry BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are susceptible to developing breast and ovarian cancer, and among men these mutations are related to an increased risk for prostate cancer, the British researchers noted.

Olaparib works differently than other cancer drugs in that it blocks Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), a protein involved in DNA repair. Healthy cells use PARP to repair themselves, but cancer cells do the same, the scientists explained.

"This is an entirely new class of drugs," said Dr. J. Dirk Iglehart, from the department of surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the department of cancer biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial.

When you disable PARP, you prevent the cell from repairing itself, he said, and cancer cells that are deficient in BRCA are much more sensitive to this effect. "When you inhibit PARP, they can't stand it," Iglehart explained.

The report is published online June 24 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a phase 1 trial, led by Dr. Johann S. de Bono, from the Institute of Cancer Research at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in Sutton, U.K., the scientists treated 60 men and women who were carriers of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, or had a family history of BRCA-related cancer, with olaparib. All of the patients had either breast, ovarian, prostate, colorectal, melanoma, sarcoma or other cancers.

In this group, there were only a few adverse side effects and they were easily reversed by lowering the dose of the drug, the study noted.


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