NHS regulators NICE has approved the use of targeted cancer drug olaparib earlier in the course of treatment for women with late-stage ovarian cancer and other gynaecological cancers who have BRCA gene mutations.
This treatment will now be available on the NHS via the Cancer Drugs Fund for women who have responded to one round of platinum-based chemotherapy, instead of after three rounds of chemotherapy, which is current standard of care.
Research has shown that women with ovarian cancer who have BRCA mutations benefit from taking olaparib earlier in the treatment process.
It is thought that approximately 15 per cent of women with ovarian cancer have inherited BRCA mutations – but it is estimated that less than a third of women with ovarian cancer in the UK are being tested.
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'A pioneering type of cancer drug'
Responding to the NICE decision, Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said:
“It’s fantastic news that olaparib will now be available on the NHS for women who have advanced ovarian cancer and inherited BRCA mutations much earlier in the course of treatment when they are most likely to benefit.
“It’s essential that the NHS should now test all women with the most common form of ovarian cancer for BRCA gene mutations at diagnosis, to ensure as many as possible can benefit from this new treatment.
“Olaparib is a pioneering type of cancer drug called a PARP inhibitor – the first ever cancer drug to target an inherited genetic fault. It was scientists at the ICR who first discovered how to target the drug at cancer’s genetic weaknesses.
“I’m particularly pleased that NICE has come to this decision so quickly, following the European Medicines Agency’s approval of the earlier use of olaparib for this group of women just last month.”
Patients remain cancer-free years later
Dr Susana Banerjee, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Team Leader in Gynaecological Cancers at the ICR, who co-led a clinical trial of olaparib said:
"Maintenance treatment with olaparib heralds a new era for women with ovarian cancer - this is the first time we have seen such dramatic improvements in progression-free survival.
"The trial results to date have shown that olaparib maintenance therapy extends progression-free survival by around three years in women with BRCA mutation linked advanced ovarian cancer.
"Some of my patients who have been treated in this trial at the Royal Marsden remain cancer-free several years later."