Background: Slow progress in improving the outcome of ovarian cancer with chemotherapy over the last decade has stimulated research into molecularly targeted therapy. Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors target DNA repair and are specifically active in cells that have impaired repair of DNA by the homologous recombination (HR) pathway. Cells with mutated BRCA function have HR deficiency (HRD), which is also present in a significant proportion of non-BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer.
Design: In the last decade, olaparib, the first and most-investigated oral PARP inhibitor, has undergone phase I-III trials as a single agent, in comparison with and in addition to chemotherapy, and as a maintenance therapy following chemotherapy.
Results: The greatest benefit to-date has been in the maintenance setting, prolonging the progression-free survival of high-grade serous ovarian cancer with a BRCA1/2 mutation. In this group of patients, olaparib has received approval as maintenance following chemotherapy from the EMA, and accelerated approval as a single agent in women who have had three or more lines of therapy. Olaparib can be given for a prolonged period with few significant side-effects in most patients. Similar trials with other PARP inhibitors (rucaparib, niraparib and veliparib) are in progress and include non-BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer. Second-generation studies are exploring the combination of PARP inhibitors with anti-angiogenic drugs.
Conclusions: PARP inhibitors represent a step change in the management of ovarian cancer. BRCA mutations are the first genotypic predictive markers in ovarian cancer and can be used to select patients who will most likely benefit from PARP inhibitors. BRCA testing is now becoming a routine part of the evaluation of women with ovarian cancer, and tests for HRD are being used to evaluate PARP inhibitors in an extended population of non-BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer.
Keywords: BRCA mutation; PARP inhibitors; homologous recombination deficiency; maintenance therapy; olaparib; ovarian cancer.
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society for Medical Oncology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.