Potential Treatment for BRCA Mutated Pancreatic Cancer Performs Well in Trial

According to a story from BioPortfolio, AstraZeneca and Merck have recently announced the results from a phase 3 clinical trial testing olaparib (marketed as LYNPARZA®) as a treatment for BRCA mutated, metastatic pancreatic cancer. The trial used olaparib, a PARP inhibitor, as a first line treatment for pancreatic cancer patients whose disease had not progressed following treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy. The trial indicated that the drug could be an effective treatment for BRCA mutated pancreatic cancer.

About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer. The disease affects the pancreas, which is a glandular organ that is situated behind the stomach. Part of the reason that pancreatic cancer is so dangerous is that it rarely produces noticeable symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage and begun to spread. However, even when detected earlier, it is difficult to treat effectively. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include being male, old age, African-American ancestry, family history, smoking, obesity, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, and a diet heavy in red meat, processed meat, or meat cooked at very high temperatures. Symptoms include depression, upper abdominal pain, jaundice, diabetes, constipation, weight loss, and appetite loss. Treatment approaches for this cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Even with heavy treatment, pancreatic cancer almost always returns. The five year survival rate is just five percent. To learn more about pancreatic cancer, click here.

Trial Results

The trial results indicate that treatment with olaparib was able to have a substantial impact on progression free survival in patients that used it. The therapy was able to reduce the risk of disease progression or death by 47 percent. This resulted in a median progression free survival of 7.4 months compared to just 3.8 months with the placebo. 34 percent of patients were still progression free after one year; this dropped to 22 percent after two years.

Considering the paltry rates of long term survival for pancreatic cancer (especially when it begins to spread) these findings were highly encouraging. The results also highlight that it is critical for doctors and patients to know if their cancer is linked to a BRCA mutation, as this can lead to a broader range of treatment options that can have considerable impact on survival. 

Olaparib is currently approved in many countries for the treatment of other cancers linked to BRCA mutations, such as metastatic breast cancer and advanced ovarian cancer.

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