Drugs that inhibit the enzyme poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) are showing considerable promise for the treatment of cancers that have mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 tumor suppressors. This therapeutic approach exploits a synthetic lethal strategy to target the specific DNA repair pathway in these tumors. High-grade ovarian cancers have a generally poor prognosis, and accumulating evidence suggests that mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2, or silencing of BRCA1 by promoter methylation, may be common in this disease. Here, we consider how the potential benefit of PARP inhibitors might be maximized in ovarian cancer. We suggest that it will be crucial to explore novel therapeutic trial strategies and drug combinations, and incorporate robust biomarkers predictive of response if these drugs are to reach their full potential.