New Cancer Drug Shrinks Advanced Tumors, Offers Hope

June 26, 2009

(ChattahBox)— A new class of cancer drugs, referred to as PARP inhibitors, offers hope to cancer patients who have exhausted all conventional treatments, offering them a second chance at life. The new treatment was tested on a group of patients suffering from genetic types of cancers, caused by mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, with exciting results.

The drug used is called, Olaparib and falls within a new type of drug methodology referred to as “synthetic lethality,” which targets the body’s molecular weaknesses to achieve a positive result. Olaparib works to aggressively shrink cancerous tumors, by targeting cancer cells, while healthy cells are left untouched.

The drug is called a PARP inhibitor, because it shuts down an enzyme called PARP. Cancer cells derived from mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes display a distinct sensitivity to PARP inhibitors, setting off a normal cell repair function that is blocked by the gene mutations.

The study conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research tested 19 patients with advanced genetic cancers and found significant improvement in 12 of those patients.

The results showed significant shrinkage in tumors and a remission of cancerous cell growth in patients treated with Olaparib. Patients in the study experienced a reduction in two levels of chemical cancer biomarkers, after just two months on the therapy, which so far has lasted for more than two years in some patients.

One patient reported the near disappearance of secondary tumors in his bones.

Additionally, patients reported only minor side effects, such as stomach discomfort and mild nausea and the drug appeared to work on advanced forms of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers caused by the gene mutations.

Next, the researchers plan to expand the clinical trials and test the drug on patients with other types of cancers not linked to specific BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.

This exciting new study is available in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

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