Drug used to treat breast cancer effective in prostate tumours too: Researchers

SINGAPORE: A drug routinely used to treat women suffering from ovarian and breast cancers, has shown promising results when administered to men in whom prostate cancer had spread to other organs too (metastatic cancer).

Olaparib, (brand name Lynparza) produced by Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical major AstraZeneca, recently underwent clinical trials and was found efficacious in treating prostate cancer patients, according to initial results of the clinical trials presented at European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Asia Congress 2019, under way at Singapore from November 22-24.

Prostate cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide among men with a burden of 3.6 lakh men dying annually, as per the Global Cancer registry 2018. Indian prevalence of prostate cancer is 4.5 in one lakh population. It's seen among men of the age group 50-60 years.

Olaparib, is a pharmacological inhibitor of the enzyme PARP (poly ADP Ribose polymerase or PARP) which is required for cancer cell DNA repair. In the presence of certain mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2, Olaparib kills cancer cells.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human tumor suppressor genes which are responsible for repairing the damaged DNA.

The global trials of "Olaparib in Prostate Cancer: phase-3 PROfound trial" conducted between 2015-18 has now proven that the drug could be used for prostate cancer patients who faced mutations in these genes.

Dr Shaheen Sandhu, medical oncologist, University of Melbourne, who presented the study at ESMO Asia 2019 told TOI: "Olaparib which is used in treating breast and ovarian cancers, has now successfully shown benefit in men with certain metastatic prostate cancer having particular gene mutations."

Dr Anil Kukreja, Vice President, medical affairs and regulatory, AstraZeneca Pharma India Limited, said: “Olaparib is a significant milestone for women in India living with certain forms of ovarian and breast cancer, which has historically been among difficult-to-treat diseases. The positive Phase III trial results from the PROfound study now represents the potential for a new, oral targeted treatment option for specific prostate cancer patients."

Immunotherapy, the road ahead in cancer treatment:

Oncologists from Asian countries who congregated at the three day international cancer congress in Singapore from November 22-24 discussed and exchanged views on innovation, technology intervention, drug development on cancer care. Immunotherapy, the novel regiment of cancer treatment used alone or in combination with chemotherapy and radiation, was the focus of many discussions.

Boosting the immune cells of the body to fight cancer cells through immunotherapy was projected as the road ahead in treating different kinds of cancers including lung, ovarian cancers.

Speaking to TOI, Dr Ravindran Kanesvaran, medical oncologist, chair of ESMO Asia- Pacific Public Policy Committee said that the immunotherapy alone may not be very effective in cancer treatment. "In combination of chemotherapy and targeted treatment, immuno therapy has been widely used. There is scope for further research," he said.


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