Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors for the treatment of ovarian cancer

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2022 Feb 16;2(2):CD007929. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007929.pub4.


Background: Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cancer in women world-wide. Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is the most common; three-quarters of women present when disease has spread outside the pelvis (stage III or IV). Treatment consists of a combination of surgery and platinum-based chemotherapy. Although initial responses to chemotherapy are good, most women with advanced disease will relapse. PARP (poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase) inhibitors (PARPi), are a type of anticancer treatment that works by preventing cancer cells from repairing DNA damage, especially in those with breast cancer susceptibility gene (BRCA) variants. PARPi offer a different mechanism of anticancer treatment from conventional chemotherapy.

Objectives: To determine the benefits and risks of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase) inhibitors (PARPi) for the treatment of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC).

Search methods: We identified randomised controlled trials (RCTs) by searching the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Central 2020, Issue 10), Cochrane Gynaecological Cancer Group Trial Register, MEDLINE (1990 to October 2020), Embase (1990 to October 2020), ongoing trials on www.controlled-trials.com/rct, www.clinicaltrials.gov, www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials, the National Research Register (NRR), FDA database and pharmaceutical industry biomedical literature.

Selection criteria: We included trials that randomised women with EOC to PARPi with no treatment, or PARPi versus conventional chemotherapy, or PARPi together with conventional chemotherapy versus conventional chemotherapy alone.

Data collection and analysis: We used standard Cochrane methodology. Two review authors independently assessed whether studies met the inclusion criteria. We contacted investigators for additional data. Outcomes included overall survival (OS), objective response rate (ORR), quality of life (QoL) and rate of adverse events.

Main results: We included 15 studies (6109 participants); four (3070 participants) with newly-diagnosed, advanced EOC and 11 (3039 participants) with recurrent EOC. The studies varied in types of comparisons and evaluated PARPi. Eight studies were judged as at low risk of bias in most of the domains. Quality of life data were generally poorly reported. Below we present six key comparisons. The majority of participants had BRCA mutations, either in their tumour (sBRCAmut) and/or germline (gBRCAmut), or homologous recombination deficiencies (HRD) in their tumours. Newly diagnosed EOC Overall, four studies evaluated the effect of PARPi in newly-diagnosed, advanced EOC. Two compared PARPi with chemotherapy and chemotherapy alone. OS data were not reported. The combination of PARPi with chemotherapy may have little to no difference in progression-free survival (PFS) (two studies, 1564 participants; hazard ratio (HR) 0.82, 95% confidence interval (CI 0).49 to 1.38; very low-certainty evidence)(no evidence of disease progression at 12 months' 63% with PARPi versus 69% for placebo). PARPi with chemotherapy likely increases any severe adverse event (SevAE) (grade 3 or higher) slightly (45%) compared with chemotherapy alone (51%) (two studies, 1549 participants, risk ratio (RR) 1.13, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.20; high-certainty evidence). PARPi combined with chemotherapy compared with chemotherapy alone likely results in little to no difference in the QoL (one study; 744 participants, MD 1.56 95% CI -0.42 to 3.54; moderate-certainty evidence). Two studies compared PARPi monotherapy with placebo as maintenance after first-line chemotherapy in newly diagnosed EOC. PARPi probably results in little to no difference in OS (two studies, 1124 participants; HR 0.81, 95%CI 0.59 to 1.13; moderate-certainty evidence) (alive at 12 months 68% with PARPi versus 62% for placebo). However, PARPi may increase PFS (two studies, 1124 participants; HR 0.42, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.92; low-certainty evidence) (no evidence of disease progression at 12 months' 55% with PARPi versus 24% for placebo). There may be an increase in the risk of experiencing any SevAE (grade 3 or higher) with PARPi (54%) compared with placebo (19%)(two studies, 1118 participants, RR 2.87, 95% CI 1.65 to 4.99; very low-certainty evidence), but the evidence is very uncertain. There is probably a slight reduction in QoL with PARPi, although this may not be clinically significant (one study, 362 participants; MD -3.00, 95%CI -4.48 to -1.52; moderate-certainty evidence). Recurrent, platinum-sensitive EOC Overall, 10 studies evaluated the effect of PARPi in recurrent platinum-sensitive EOC. Three studies compared PARPi monotherapy with chemotherapy alone. PARPi may result in little to no difference in OS (two studies, 331 participants; HR 0.95, 95%CI 0.62 to 1.47; low-certainty evidence) (percentage alive at 36 months 18% with PARPi versus 17% for placebo). Evidence is very uncertain about the effect of PARPi on PFS (three studies, 739 participants; HR 0.88, 95%CI 0.56 to 1.38; very low-certainty evidence)(no evidence of disease progression at 12 months 26% with PARPi versus 22% for placebo). There may be little to no difference in rates of any SevAE (grade 3 or higher) with PARPi (50%) than chemotherapy alone (47%) (one study, 254 participants; RR 1.06, 95%CI 0.80 to 1.39; low-certainty evidence). Four studies compared PARPi monotherapy as maintenance with placebo. PARPi may result in little to no difference in OS (two studies, 560 participants; HR 0.88, 95%CI 0.65 to 1.20; moderate-certainty evidence)(percentage alive at 36 months 21% with PARPi versus 17% for placebo). However, evidence suggests that PARPi as maintenance therapy results in a large PFS (four studies, 1677 participants; HR 0.34, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.42; high-certainty evidence)(no evidence of disease progression at 12 months 37% with PARPi versus 5.5% for placebo). PARPi maintenance therapy may result in a large increase in any SevAE (51%) (grade 3 or higher) than placebo (19%)(four studies, 1665 participants, RR 2.62, 95%CI 1.85 to 3.72; low-certainty evidence). PARPi compared with chemotherapy may result in little or no change in QoL (one study, 229 participants, MD 1.20, 95%CI -1.75 to 4.16; low-certainty evidence). Recurrent, platinum-resistant EOC Two studies compared PARPi with chemotherapy. The certainty of evidence in both studies was graded as very low. Overall, there was minimal information on the QoL and adverse events.

Authors' conclusions: PARPi maintenance treatment after chemotherapy may improve PFS in women with newly-diagnosed and recurrent platinum-sensitive EOC; there may be little to no effect on OS, although OS data are immature. Overall, this is likely at the expense of an increase in SevAE. It is disappointing that data on quality of life outcomes are relatively sparse. More research is needed to determine whether PARPi have a role to play in platinum-resistant disease.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01968213 NCT02822157 NCT00628251 NCT01306032 NCT02446600 NCT01847274 NCT01081951 NCT01844986 NCT01874353 NCT00753545 NCT03314740 NCT01891344.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors* / adverse effects
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / therapeutic use


  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01968213
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02822157
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00628251
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01306032
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02446600
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01847274
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01081951
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01844986
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01874353
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00753545
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03314740
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01891344