A new cancer drug originally developed to help treat women with rare forms of ovarian and breast cancer may also provide a ray of hope for men suffering from a normally deadly form of advanced prostate cancer. A small clinical study involving the use of this drug was recently staged with results that were quite promising.
The drug, researchers fund, was able to halt tumor growth in about a third of the men it was used on. Nearly all of the men who responded to the treatment had related mutations in their tumors, which indicates the drug was targeting a common process at the cellular level.
The new drug is designed to block an enzyme known as PARP. PARP inhibitors have been mostly tested on women who present with the genetic mutations BRCA1 or BRCA2, which are known to raise a woman’s risk for ovarian or breast cancer. These genetic mutations have also been linked to a man’s risk for prostate cancer because they basically disable proteins that repair DNA damage.
AstraZeneca’s olaparib was the first PARP inhibitor approved for use in ovarian cancer patients with inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations in the United States. Researchers, however, have noted that DNA repair gene defects are common in men with advanced prostate tumors. With that in mind, the new AstraZeneca drug was given to 50 men with metastatic prostate cancer. Of the 49 men who stuck with the trial, 33 percent responded positively to the treatments. Most of the patients who saw improvement did have DNA repair gene mutations in their tumors, researchers noted.
Men who are facing a diagnosis of prostate cancer are urged to discuss their particular case with their healthcare providers. The best possible path for treatment will depend on the unique case in question. The use of olaparib in men is still under review, but it may show promise down the road for treating certain type of tumors in patients with genetic mutations.