New Research on PARP Inhibitors Shows Great Promise for Treating Breast and Ovarian Cancer
Research findings presented at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s virtual medical conference, which was held from March 19-25, 2021, are showing very positive results from a study on PARP inhibitors that was conducted over the past five years. The PARP inhibitor works to target specific aspects of cancerous cells and appears to work particularly well in blocking BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which are often prevalent in women with advanced and recurring ovarian cancer.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that are designed in principle to prevent certain cancers. However, these genes can be broken or damaged, thus leading to mutated genes and a greater chance of breast and ovarian cancer development. While less than half of the women with advanced ovarian cancer survive five years after their diagnosis, the PARP inhibitors are proving effective against roughly 25% of these cases.
Recent Findings and Leading Research
PARP inhibitors are contained in pill or capsules to be taken daily, after initial chemotherapy treatment. They work as enzymes that repair damage done to genetic materials, thus helping to kill cancerous cells. The success in the recent study comes from a drug called Lynparza. A total of 391 women with BRCA mutations and advanced ovarian cancer who had already completed chemotherapy received treatment either by the medication (260 women) or a placebo (131 women). Lynparza was two times more effective than the placebo, and subjects showed no progression of their cancer five years after the start of the study.
Besides Lynparza, two other PARP drugs currently on the market include Zejula and Rubraca. All of the forms of the PARP inhibitors have shown effectiveness in tackling ovarian cancer with the BCRA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.
Downsides: Side Effects and Cost
Some have reported side effects that have included nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, taste changes, low red blood cell counts, and blood abnormalities. These can leave women prone to infection and fatigue. However, these side effects have not been reported to get worse over time.
Another issue with the PARP treatment is the cost, which is roughly $10,000-$12,000 a month. Even with quality health insurance, the co-payments can be extreme and may keep many women from getting the treatment.
Medical Professional Are Optimistic
Many medical professionals are claiming that these new findings are remarkable. The findings await a peer-reviewed medical report, but as things currently stand, the research disclosed at the recent virtual meeting appears quite promising. PARP inhibitors administered through “maintenance therapy” are looking like an exciting and realistic option for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.