Matching ovarian cancer patients with the right treatment

Matching ovarian cancer patients with the right treatment

Illuminate newsletter index page, December 2018
December 2018


(L-R) Dr Olga Kondrashova and Professor Clare Scott
have discovered why some patients do not respond to
powerful ovarian cancer drugs called PARP inhibitors.

Findings from a study led by Institute ovarian cancer experts add to a vital ‘checklist’ that helps to match patients with the right therapy for their cancer.

The research revealed why some patients were not responding to powerful ovarian cancer drugs called PARP inhibitors (PARPi).

To put this in context, all cells have systems in place to repair any damage to the DNA. Faults in this process are particularly common in cancer cells, particularly for ovarian cancer.

Study lead Professor Clare Scott said it was well documented that PARPi worked when the cancer’s DNA repair process was faulty.

“For the past two decades, it was thought that ovarian cancer patients whose cancer’s BRCA1 genes were methylated or ‘switched off’ had faulty DNA repair and therefore were good candidates for PARPi treatment,” she said.

Yet for some reason, researchers were unable to accurately predict the patients for whom the drugs would work.

Drug ineffectiveness explained

Dr Kondrashova said the ‘Eureka moment’ came when the researchers discovered subtle yet significant differences in some BRCA1 methylated cancers, which meant in some of these cases the cancer’s DNA repair process was still intact.

“The fact that DNA repair process was still functioning in these cases explained why PARPi was ineffective for these patients.

“It was suddenly clear that all patients in this group could not be treated the same way as was originally assumed.”

Being able to offer tailored treatment in ovarian cancer care is crucial for patient survival rates that have seen little improvement over the past 30 years.