Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

Experimental Pill Fights Inherited Cancer

Study Shows PARP Inhibitors Curb Growth of Some Breast, Ovarian, Prostate Tumors
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 24, 2009 -- For the second time this month, researchers report success using a novel type of anticancer pill to curb the growth of inherited tumors that often defy standard treatment. Called olaparib, the experimental pill is a member of a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors that prevent unstable cancer cells from repairing themselves.

Two-thirds of 19 patients with cancer caused by mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes responded to treatment with olaparib, and in more than half, tumors shrank or stopped growing, says researcher Johann de Bono, MD, PhD, of the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, U.K.

Defects in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes place women at sharply increased risk of developing aggressive cancers of the breast and ovaries at a young age. BRCA2 gene mutations also raise a man's risk of prostate cancer.

Of 19 patients in the study with BRCA-inherited cancers, 15 had ovarian cancer, three had breast cancer, and one had prostate cancer.

Olaparib did not help 41 other patients with tumors that were not associated with BRCA mutations, de Bono says.

PARP inhibitors "will very likely change the way we treat patients" whose tumors are caused by BRCA defects, says Daniel Silver, MD, PhD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Silver, who was not involved with the work, co-authored an editorial about the study.

The study appears in the June 25 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW