A review on mechanisms of resistance to PARP inhibitors

Indian J Cancer. 2022 Mar;59(Supplement):S119-S129. doi: 10.4103/ijc.IJC_53_21.


Standard therapy for advanced ovarian cancer (OC) consists of radical debulking cytoreductive surgery followed by adjuvant chemotherapy. An important risk factor for OC is genetic predisposition, with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations accounting for the majority of hereditary OC. Mutation in BRCA ultimately causes accumulation of genetic alterations because of the failure of cells to arrest and repair DNA damage or to undergo apoptosis, resulting in tumorigenesis. Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors have emerged as a promising approach for managing BRCA-associated cancers, especially high-grade OC and breast cancers. They lead to synthetic lethality in BRCA-mutated cells by stalling the replication forks in homologous recombination-deficient (HR) cells. Four PARP inhibitors (olaparib, niraparib, rucaparib, and talazoparib) are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for OC, breast, and pancreatic cancer indications and are being evaluated for other BRCA-associated cancers. Despite their clinical efficacy, cancer cells generally develop resistance to them through several mechanisms. Understanding these mechanisms is crucial for developing strategies to counter resistance and identify the basic mechanisms of DNA damage response. This review focuses on the mechanism of action of PARP inhibitors, understanding various causes of resistance, and building strategies to overcome PARP inhibitor resistance.

Keywords: BRCA mutations; DNA repair; PARP inhibitors; niraparib; olaparib; resistance; rucaparib.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Ovarian Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / therapeutic use
  • United States


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