THURSDAY, March 25, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Women with advanced ovarian cancer often face grim statistics, with less than half surviving five years after diagnosis. However, new research suggests that so-called “maintenance therapy” with a targeted anti-cancer drug may add years of life to some patients.
In findings described by some experts as “outstanding,” the study found that women with advanced ovarian cancer linked to the BRCA gene were much more likely to be alive without signs of cancer returning in five years if they received Lynparza (olaparib), a targeted therapy. cancer known as a PARP inhibitor.
This class of drugs blocks an enzyme called PARP that is supposed to repair damage to the genetic material of cancer cells, and by blocking them, it causes the death of cancer cells. There are two other PARP inhibitors approved for the treatment of ovarian cancer, Zejula (niraparib) and Rubraca (rucaparib).
PARP inhibitors are particularly effective against cancers associated with BRCA genes. They are often considered genes for breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2 they are responsible for approximately 25% of ovarian cancer cases.
The new study provides five-year follow-up data from a clinical trial of women with BRCA-positive advanced ovarian cancer who received Lynparza two years after the start of initial treatment.
Fortunately, the benefits of survival lasted for five years, no matter how aggressive the cancers were, said the author of the study, Dr. William Bradley, a gynecological oncologist from Froedtert College of Health and Medicine in Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
It is still too early to use the word medicine, but that may be where this leads, he added. “Maintaining Lynparz therapy really should be considered the standard of care for BRCA positive advanced ovarian cancer,” Bradley said.
The study included 391 women with a BRCA mutation and advanced ovarian cancer who completed chemotherapy; 260 received Lynparz and 131 a placebo. Compared to women on placebo pills, more than twice as many women on Lynparza were still alive without cancer progression five years after the study began. The trial was funded by manufacturer Lynparze AstraZeneca.
“This is really good news,” Bradley said. “Women enjoyed the benefits for the next three years without therapy.”
Invoking new results “quite remarkable, ”Dr. Konstantin Zakashansky, director of gynecological oncology at Mount Sinai West in New York City, said the new findings could be similar to a cure for these women.
“Even after five years, there is a pretty significant benefit,” said Zakashansky, who was not part of the study. “We’ve never seen anything like it with ovarian cancer before.”
PARP inhibitors have their share of side effects, including the risk of blood abnormalities that can make women more prone to infections or fatigue, but additional data shows they don’t get worse over time, the researchers said. “The security signal hasn’t progressed or become ominous,” Bradley said.
Those women will now be followed indefinitely, he added.
New findings suggest that maintenance therapy with Lynparz has a lasting effect on women with BRCA-positive advanced ovarian cancer, and time will answer any remaining questions, said Dr. Deborah Armstrong, a professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore. She was not included in the new study.
“Is it possible that two years of therapy with this drug crushes the cancer cells in the bud or do they simply calm down and come back later?” Armstrong asked.
Another thing is that the new drug may be costly for some women, she said. “It’s extremely expensive, it costs $ 10,000 to $ 12,000 a month, and even people with really good insurance have a high price to pay.”
The findings were presented at the virtual annual meeting of the Society for Gynecological Oncology, held on March 19 and 25. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition offers more on ovarian cancer treatment options.
SOURCES: dr. William Bradley, gynecological oncologist, Froedtert Health and Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Deborah K. Armstrong, Ph.D. Med., Professor, Oncology, Professor, Gynecology and Obstetrics, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Baltimore; Konstantin Zakashansky, Ph.D. Med., Director, Gynecological Oncology, Mount Sinai West, and Associate Professor, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York City; Society of Gynecological Oncology, virtual annual meeting; March 19 – 25, 2021