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Olaparib Trial Results Promising for Some Prostate Cancer Patients

A new study on the effectiveness of a drug that targets distinct genetic mutations in patients with prostate cancer has shown promising results.

Cancer Research
‘Olaparib’ targets mutations that alter the way in which DNA - the genetic information that controls how cells behave - is repaired. The drug was shown to slow tumour growth in 88% of prostate cancer patients with such DNA mutations.

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research in London and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust tested the drug on 49 men with prostate cancer. The results, which have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show how the drug was effective in 14 out of 16 patients with DNA mutations.

Dr Aine McCarthy from Cancer Research UK, which helped fund the study, said the results were exciting because Olaparib could potentially save lives by “targeting genetic mistakes in cancers that have spread.”

Although those who took part in the trial had been told they had an expected 10 to 12 months to live, many responded to the drug for up to 18 months. The drug was found to more than halve levels of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) – a protein produced by tumours, and significantly reduce the size of secondary tumours as well as the number of prostate cancer cells found in the blood.

Prostate cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in men in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Although at present, prostate cancer that has spread to other areas of the body can be treated with chemotherapy and hormone therapy, it does not always respond to these so-called ‘standard treatments.’ This is why there is a need to look at new treatments to treat those patients whose condition has not responded to treatment with hormone therapy and chemotherapy drugs.

Dr Joaquin Mateo, one of the researchers who took part in the trial, said Olaparib “is the first drug that targets specific genetically defined populations and we are going to see more and more of these coming in the next few years.”

Professor Johann de Bono, the Head of Drug Development at the Institute of Cancer Research said the trial marked “a significant step forward in the treatment of prostate cancer. I hope it won't be long before we are using Olaparib in the clinic to treat prostate cancer."

Although a wider clinical trial is required before doctors can say if Olaparib extends life expectancy, these results are indeed promising. It is important to stress however, that an important factor in successfully treating cancer is early diagnosis.

The Slater and Gordon Clinical Negligence team regularly deal with cases involving delayed diagnosis of cancer, and we see first-hand just how devastating late diagnosis can be in terms of affecting prospects of recovery.

Early detection and treatment of cancer is essential as delays in discovering the disease can mean the treatment patients subsequently require is often far more extensive than it would have been had their condition been diagnosed earlier. Sadly for some patients, by the time they are diagnosed treatment is no longer possible.

Claire White is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.

The Slater and Gordon Clinical Negligence team are widely experienced in handling claims related to delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosed cancer. For a free consultation call our Medical Negligence Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or start your claim online.


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