Experts say that the first genetically targeted drug for fighting prostate cancer could become a become a revolutionary treatment.
Olaparib is a precision medicine already used by the NHS for ovarian cancer and has been called a game-changer by cancer doctors.
In trials the drug has slowed tumor growth in men with advanced prostate cancer. Researchers hope that this could improve survival for some men. Experts say the drug could be made available to patients in the next couple of years.
Olaparib, also called Lynparza, works by targeting and killing cancer cells with faulty genetic code, while at the same time sparing normal cells with healthy DNA.
Researchers say that the drug won’t work for everyone with prostate cancer, but it is effective for some men with the disease.
Patients can be tested to see if they have the genetic errors that the drug can attack – faulty DNA repair genes including BRCA1 and BRCA2. This precision approach means that the patients most likely to benefit will be treated, avoiding potential side-effects from other drugs that may not work as well for them.
During the trial, doctors compared Olaparib with two other commonly prescribed prostate drugs (hormone treatments called Abiraterone and Enzalutamide).
It appeared that Olaparib delayed cancer growth by months, which researchers say hopefully means men can survive for longer even when their disease is advanced. The researchers will be monitoring patients to confirm this.
About prostate cancer
One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. It mainly affects men over the age of 50 and the risk increases with age.
Not all of these tumors need immediate treatment. If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, doctors may instead suggest careful monitoring.
Some cases are more aggressive and need treatment but can be cured if caught early enough.
Other cases may only be diagnosed at a late stage when the cancer has spread and cannot be cured.
All treatments, including Olaparib, can have side-effects. Doctors can talk advise patients about what might be the best treatment for them.