Olaparib shown to benefit patients with advanced prostate cancer

21st May 2020


Thanks to the results of this clinical trial, olaparib has now been approved in the US to treat some men with advanced prostate cancer. Olaparib is the first gene targeted therapy to be made available for prostate cancer. This is the third cancer that olaparib has been approved for so far – the others being ovarian and breast cancer. Olaparib is now being considered for approval for prostate cancer by the regulatory bodies in the UK. We’ll keep you updated on news and progress!

Twenty years ago, with the support of Worldwide Cancer Research, Professor Steve Jackson took the first step towards developing a new drug called olaparib. Since then, olaparib has become an immensely successful drug for the treatment of ovarian cancer that has already been used to treat more than 5,000 women worldwide. In the US olaparib is also approved for use in certain breast cancers – something that is currently under review in the UK.

But the olaparib story doesn’t stop there. A landmark clinical trial has now shown that olaparib is effective in the treatment for certain types of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer affects almost 50,000 men in the UK every year, meaning that 1 in 8 men will receive the diagnosis during their lifetime.

The clinical trial, conducted by researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, and many other collaborators, compared the use of olaparib and traditional hormone treatment in 387 patients with advanced prostate cancer. The cancers all had mutations in one or more of 15 genes that are responsible for repairing DNA damage. Olaparib exploits this weakness in the cancer to kill cancer cells while having little effect on normal, healthy cells.

Patients who had cancer with mutations to three genes, called BRCA1, BRCA2 and ATM, were particularly responsive to olaparib treatment. Patients with those genetic mutations and who received olaparib saw their cancer stall for an average of 7.4 months, while cancers of patients on hormonal treatments progressed, on average, after 3.6 months.

These findings will help push olaparib on towards approval as a treatment option for prostate cancer patients with certain mutations. The researchers hope that olaparib might be approved for use on the NHS within 2 years.

We are incredibly pleased to see how well olaparib is doing and how it is being shown to help patients with a wide variety of cancers. Olaparib was developed because Professor Jackson was able to pursue his bold idea.

Unfortunately, right now, labs are on lockdown and cancer research has ground to a halt in many places. Bold ideas, like Professor Jackson’s, are at risk. Yet, cancer carries on. That is why we are determined to continue to start bold research, even in these difficult times, to find new cancer cures – because research will bring us back together.

Please support our Emergency Appeal and help us continue to start bold new research that will lead to more lifesaving treatments like olaparib. To find out more click here.

Since lockdown, much of our fundraising has stopped and our life-saving research is at risk. Yet, cancer carries on. We won't be able to fund more research like this without your support.