The Increasing Role of PARP Inhibitors for the Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

Poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitors have played an increasing role in the treatment of ovarian cancer. They are being very heavily studied in clinical trials, both for the treatment of ovarian cancers and other forms of the disease. They are meant to inhibit the PARP enzyme, which results in the death of cancer cells. They have been shown to slow the progression of the disease or increase the amount of time between rounds of chemotherapy. Since 2014, they have been an option for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Anna Valencia Hall saw the benefits of this treatment after she was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer.

About Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer affects females’ ovaries, which are a part of the reproductive system. There are multiple types of this cancer, which vary depending on the specific location that the cancer begins in. Regardless of the type of ovarian cancer, tumors often spread to lymph nodes, the lining of the bowel and bladder, lungs, and liver.

Symptoms of this cancer will increase in severity as the disease progresses. Symptoms include pelvic pain, bloating, abdominal swelling, urinary issues, loss of appetite, abnormal uterine bleeding, endometrial hyperplasia, breast tenderness, vaginal secretions, virilizing symptoms, enlarging abdominal mass and girth, and irregularities in the menstrual cycle.

A diagnosis of ovarian cancer usually comes after a pelvic exam. Other tests may be necessary, such as imaging tests, blood tests, and biopsies. After a diagnosis is obtained, the first step of treatment is typically surgery. Surgery can be invasive, with the removal of the fallopian tubes, uterus, lymph nodes, omentum, and ovaries. It can also be less intense, as doctors may only remove one ovary or fallopian tube. These procedures are followed by chemotherapy, radiation, or other medications.

Anna’s Story

Anna Valencia Hall was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in May of 2014. The first step in her treatment was surgery, followed by six rounds of chemotherapy. After this strategy she went into remission for eighteen months. She relapsed and went through another six rounds of chemotherapy, which resulted in her remission.

To give her the best chance at remaining in remission, her oncologist prescribed a PARP inhibitor called Zejula. This medication is intended to be a maintenance treatment, with the goal of stopping the relapse of ovarian cancer.

Zejula has been successful and prevented the return of Anna’s cancer. She has not experienced and adverse effects, which is another positive aspect of this medication. As it is an oral treatment, Anna is thankful that she does not have to endure recurrent infusions. As a whole, Anna’s life has been bettered by Zejula.

PARP Inhibitors

PARP inhibitors have recently become a more popular form of treatment for ovarian cancer. The FDA has been approving the use of this therapy since 2014. They are maintenance treatments, meaning that they are meant to slow the progression or recurrence of cancer and increase the amount of time in between rounds of chemotherapy. Clinical trials have proven that these inhibitors can reduce disease progression by 70%.

There are common adverse effects of these treatments, such as gastric upset, rash, headaches, mouth sores, dizziness, anemia, and abnormal blood counts. Taking a PARP inhibitor does not necessarily mean that one will experience all or even one of these side effects and it is dependent on the person.

Multiple studies have enforced the need for this form of therapy earlier in the treatment of ovarian cancer. Clinical trials of different types of PARP inhibitors have demonstrated an increase in the amount of time people are in remission, an increase in the amount of time people go without remission, and a cut off of the blood supply to tumors.

Other uses of PARP inhibitors are also being investigated. Researchers have been investigating the pairing of these inhibitors with immunotherapy. Studies have shown that the combination of these two forms of medications can help to boost the immune system and fight off the cancer. This research encourages medical professionals to implement PARP inhibitors earlier in the treatment process.

Medical professionals will continue to research this form of treatment in order to improve the lives of those with ovarian cancer. They hope that PARP inhibitors will continue to develop so that they will one day remove the need for chemotherapy, which causes harsh side effects. The goal is to improve the lives of those with ovarian cancer as a whole.

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