New cancer drug ‘can delay disease in newly diagnosed’


A drug for advanced ovarian cancer has been approved for use in newly diagnosed patients in England, after a trial showed it could delay progression of the disease for three years.


Up to 600 women with a hereditary type of the disease could benefit each year.


Health bosses said olaparib had the potential to make “a huge impact”, giving a better chance of survival.


Most cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed late, when there are few treatment options.

Olaparib is for women with advanced ovarian, fallopian-tube or peritoneal cancer who have a specific gene mutation – Brca – inherited from parents, which increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.


About five to 15 out of every 100 women with ovarian cancer have this faulty gene but there are concerns that less than a third of women with the disease in the UK are being tested for it.


Previously, olaparib has been available in the UK only to women who have already had at least three separate rounds of chemotherapy.


But now, patients in England who have responded to their first round of chemotherapy can also be given the tablets, which are taken twice a day.


Scotland is considering approving the drug to be used in the same way.


She was given 12 to 18 months to live and had two major operations and four rounds of chemotherapy.


“You’re told it’s coming back, most likely,” she says.


“How do you get your head round that? You think, ‘This is horrific, life is going to be short.”


Then, two years ago, Florence then started taking olaparib.


In the trial, nearly 60% of patients receiving the drug did not see the disease get any worse after three years, compared with just 27% of patients taking a dummy drug.


Olaparib, made by AstraZeneca, is a pioneering type of cancer drug called a PARP inhibitor, which works by targeting an inherited genetic fault, causing cancer cells to die.


Olaparib will be available immediately in England for this purpose, paid for through the Cancer Drugs Fund.