Purpose of review: In 2012, two publications revealed a particular sensitivity of Ewing sarcoma cells to the inhibition of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP). This review updates the reader on PARP function, the development of PARP inhibitors (PARPi) and the evidence for targeting PARP in Ewing sarcoma. It concludes with a description of ongoing/emerging PARPi clinical trials in patients with Ewing sarcoma.
Recent findings: PARP has a major role in DNA repair, and is a transcription regulator. The oncoprotein in Ewing sarcoma, EWS-FLI1, is proposed to interact with PARP-1, driving PARP-1 expression, which further promotes transcriptional activation by EWS-FLI1. Thus, there are two rationales for PARPi in the treatment of Ewing sarcoma: to disrupt the interaction between EWS-FLI1 and PARP, and for chemo-potentiation or radio-potentiation. The first clinical trial with a single agent PARPi failed to show significant responses, but preclinical evidence for combinations of PARPi with chemotherapy or radiotherapy is very promising.
Summary: Despite initial excitement for the potential of PARPi as single agent therapy in Ewing sarcoma, the emerging preclinical data now strongly support testing PARPi in combination with chemo/radiotherapy clinically.