“The past 18 months have seen some of the biggest advances in drug therapy for newly diagnosed ovarian cancer in more than 10 years.”

Assoc Prof Tarek Meniawy, Chair of ANZGOG’s Ovarian Tumour Type Working Group, speaking earlier this year during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month about recent findings in studies using PARP inhibitors. But what are PARP inhibitors, and why do they hold promise for a major shift in standard practice and improved outcomes for ovarian cancer?

What are PARP inhibitors?

For cells to survive damaged DNA must be repaired. Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs) are proteins that play an important role in DNA damage repair. PARP inhibitors are a class of drugs that specifically blocks the activity of these proteins. Impaired DNA repair mechanisms in patients exposed to a PARP inhibitor, results in cells suffering considerable DNA damage that can ultimately lead to cancer cell death.

In Australia, the PARP inhibitors, olaparib and niraparib have been approved for a number of indications as maintenance treatment for patients with ovarian cancer following a response to platinum-based chemotherapy. The challenge now is to ensure these PARP inhibitors are more accessible to patients by expanding the PBS listings for these drugs.

PARP inhibitors and ANZGOG trials

ANZGOG is conducting a number of trials investigating different treatment strategies involving PARP inhibitors, with the hope to improve outcomes for women with ovarian cancer:

  • ICON9 is investigating the addition of cediranib to olaparib maintenance therapy following completion of platinum-based chemotherapy for platinum-sensitive relapsed ovarian cancer.
  • SOLACE2 is investigating different strategies to prime the immune system to enhance response to durvalumab and olaparib for platinum-sensitive recurrent ovarian cancer.
  • EMBRACE is investigating whether olaparib is effective in treating advanced ovarian and breast cancer in people who do not have inherited changes in their BRCA genes, whose cancers have homologous recombination deficiency.
  • PRECISE is investigating the effect of a new PARP inhibitor, pamiparib, in patients with ovarian cancer with specific gene abnormalities, that have progressed on a PARP inhibitor or chemotherapy.

Dr Ali Freimund speaking at ANZGOG’s 2019 Public Forum about PARPs

Watch our YouTube video below of ANZGOG Member Dr Ali Freimund speaking at the 2019 Public Forum in Sydney about the future of ovarian cancer and ANZGOG’s ovarian cancer research programs.

Skip to 5:30 for the part on PARPs:

You can find out more about ANZGOG’s clinical trials on our webpage.