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'BRCA-Targeting' Drug Shows Promise Against Prostate Cancer

By    |   Tuesday, 21 April 2015 04:01 PM

Prostate cancer patients appear to benefit from a pioneering drug developed to combat genetically linked breast and ovarian cancer.

In a study led by the Institute of Cancer Research of London, medical investigators found that men with advanced prostate tumors who have inherited mutations in the so-called BRCA gene responded particularly well to olaparib — the first cancer drug to target such genetically linked cancers.

Up to 30 percent of men with prostate cancer have BRCA gene mutations, which are also associated wiith breast and ovarian cancer, the researchers noted.

Olaparib was licensed in December for women with ovarian cancer and inherited BRCA mutations. But the new study suggests it could also benefit many others with cancer-gene variants, the researchers said in presenting their findings at an American Association of Cancer Research conference in Philadelphia.

The men most likely to benefit could be identified by genetic testing to look for mutations in genes responsible for DNA repair — including the BRCA genes and the gene ATM.

"Our trial shows that olaparib is effective in men with defects in DNA repair genes who do not necessarily have an inherited risk of cancer - and that we can pick up these defects in the clinic,” said lead researcher Johann de Bono, head of drug development at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

“This opens up the exciting possibility of delivering precise treatment for advanced prostate cancer, guided by genomic testing and based on the particular molecular characteristics of patients' tumors. The trial is also exciting because it shows that [such drugs] can be effective in a wider group of patients than had been thought — in men as well as women … and in those with a wider range of gene defects than just BRCA mutations."

For the study, which was funded by a coalition of cancer foundations, researchers tracked the drug’s effectiveness in 49 men with treatment-resistant, advanced prostate cancer. In about one-third (16) of the men, the drug halted prostate cancer growth, reduced prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels and circulating tumor cell counts in the blood.

The benefits were greatest among patients whose tumors carried mutations to genes involved in repairing DNA.

Of the 16 patients with detectable DNA repair mutations, 14 responded to olaparib —accounting for the large majority of patients who benefited from the drug. For most of these men, who all had terminal prostate cancer with limited treatment options, the benefits lasted much longer than expected in this group of patients.

"The results from this innovative clinical trial are very promising and highlight the potential for olaparib — and other PARP inhibitors — to treat a wide range of cancers,” said Steve Jackson, head of Cancer Research UK Laboratories at the University of Cambridge Gurdon Institute, said the findings are very promising.

“If these new results are confirmed by further patient trials, they could soon pave the way for a much needed new treatment for late-stage prostate cancer."

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Prostate cancer patients have been shown to benefit from a pioneering drug developed to combat breast and ovarian cancers that are genetically linked.
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Tuesday, 21 April 2015 04:01 PM
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