Phase III results of olaparib for BRCA breast cancer

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Published: 4 Jun 2017
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Dr Mark Robson - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA

Dr Robson speaks with ecancer at ASCO 2017 about the growth-limiting application of olaparib, a PARP inhibitor, to treat BRCA breast cancer.

He describes how, among 300 women included in the trial, disease progression was slowed by up to 3 months, reducing the chance of disease progression by 42%.

For more, watch Dr Robson speak at the press session in which these results were announced, or read about the findings here.

The data has also been published in The New England Journal of Medicine .


ecancer's filming has been kindly supported by Amgen through the ECMS Foundation. ecancer is editorially independent and there is no influence over content.

There were 205 women who got the olaparib, 97 who got the chemotherapy and the women who got the olaparib had an improvement in their progression free survival, their overall response rate and their quality of life took longer to deteriorate.

Can you go into more of the details there.

Well, side effects, it was well tolerated. There were fewer significant side effects grade 3 or higher, fewer women who had to discontinue treatment because of side effects. The main side effects were mild nausea and the main significant side effect was anaemia. But, as I said, despite that quality of life was better preserved than in the chemotherapy arm.

That’s a class associated side effect.

Yes, it’s a well know side effect from olaparib, been described in many other prior studies.

It seems that PARP inhibitors have been picking up more of a groundswell, almost like immuno-oncology, over the last couple of years. Where do you see these results heading for changing the way that we do care for people with BRCA positive breast cancer mutations?

Hopefully, assuming regulatory approval, they’ll immediately become an option for women who are now facing a decision about do they need to go on a conventional chemotherapy agent or can they avoid that for a little bit longer with a targeted therapy agent and hopefully for more than a little bit longer. But it’s also, in a sense, a proof of principle that we need to build upon by improving the results, either by using rational combinations with other targeted therapy agents or perhaps in combination with immune oncology agents or even potentially with conventional chemotherapy.

I was just about to ask for any combinations you can think of or if it was a staging adjuvant, neoadjuvant, second line.

There is a very large international adjuvant setting trial that’s going on right now called OlympiA, the international coordinating investigator is Andrew Tutt, actually, from London. That is approximately halfway accrued in women who have BRCA mutations and high risk of recurrence so that will be an exciting move towards the early stage, early line. Then there are certainly a number of people that are looking at different ways of doing the combination trials, at least in exploratory early stage trials right now.