This breast cancer drug could help treat prostate cancer, study shows

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In a new study, researchers found a that drug used to treat breast and ovarian cancer can extend the lives of some men with prostate cancer and should become a new standard treatment for the disease.

Final results from the trial showed that olaparib—a pioneering type of drug called a PARP inhibitor and the first-ever cancer drug to target an inherited genetic fault—can be used successfully to treat prostate cancers with a weakness in their ability to repair damaged DNA.

The innovative drug was more effective than the modern hormone treatments abiraterone and enzalutamide at slowing down the growth and spread of prostate cancer in patients with advanced disease.

Prior results published earlier this year led to olaparib’s approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – making it one of the first genetically targeted drugs available for prostate cancer.

The research was conducted by a team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London and elsewhere.

DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer—but it is also a key weakness of cancer that can be exploited since cancer cells need to be able to repair their own DNA too.

The trial reported an improvement in disease development and outcome for this group of men with DNA repair faults in their tumors—but the final results published at this stage offer a longer follow-up and conclusively demonstrate an improvement in survival for men who were given olaparib.

The trial studied 387 men with advanced prostate cancer who had defects in one or more of 15 DNA repair genes.

The scientists were the first to discover how olaparib could be targeted at tumors with faults in their ability to repair DNA.

In the final analysis of data from the trial, they found that olaparib blocked prostate cancer growth more effectively than the modern targeted hormone treatments abiraterone and enzalutamide in men with faulty DNA repair genes.

They now expect the concluding results from the PROfound trial to pave the way for regulatory approval of olaparib in prostate cancer in Europe and in the UK.

The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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