Anglo-Swedish pharma major AstraZeneca’s (LSE: AZN) drug to treat women with genetic cancers can also benefit men with advanced prostate cancer, according to a new research.
Olaparib, trade name Lynparza, the world’s first drug to reach the market targeted against inherited cancer mutations, was found to benefit as many as a third of patients with prostate cancer, including many who did not inherit cancer genes but whose tumours had acquired defects in DNA repair.
An international consortium of researchers, led by experts at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, published the trial’s findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The trial is a milestone in cancer treatment as the first to show the benefits of ‘precision medicine’ in prostate cancer – with treatment matched to the particular genetic characteristics of a man’s tumor.
Trial chief investigator Professor Johann de Bono, head of drug development at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our trial marks a significant step forward in the treatment of prostate cancer, showing that olaparib is highly effective at treating men with DNA repair defects in their tumors. It also proves the principle that we can detect prostate cancers with specific targetable mutations using genomic sequencing to deliver more precise cancer care by matching treatment to those men most likely to benefit. I hope it won’t be long before we are using olaparib in the clinic to treat prostate cancer, or before genomic stratification of cancers becomes a standard in this and other cancers.”
Aine McCarthy, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “Even though the number of men surviving prostate cancer is increasing, it’s still the second most common cause of cancer death in UK men. This is partly because the disease is so hard to treat once it has spread around the body. This trial is exciting because it could offer a new way to treat prostate cancer by targeting genetic mistakes in cancers that have spread. The hope is that this approach could help save many more lives in the future.”
The trial received support from a wide range of funders including Cancer Research UK, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer, Prostate Cancer UK and the Movember Foundation.
The drug, a type of treatment called a PARP inhibitor, was licensed last year for women with ovarian cancer and inherited BRCA mutations, but so far has not been approved for use on the NHS by NICE or the Cancer Drugs Fund.