“We now know that women with the most common types of ovarian cancer should be offered genetic testing, irrespective of family history. So that’s a significant change in the Australian guidelines and guidelines elsewhere. PARP inhibitors have been in introduced and have had a big impact on certain types of ovarian cancer,” said Professor David Bowtell, Co-Head of the Women’s Cancer Program at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, when asked about the significant changes in ovarian cancer research over the past decade. 

So 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 has conducted 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.

Prof David Bowtell explains PARP inhibitors

Watch our YouTube video below of ANZGOG Member Prof David Bowtell, a leading ovarian cancer researcher, speaking about PARP inhibitors and their importance in ovarian cancer treatment.

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

This page was last updated in December 2023.