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PARP Inhibitors and the Evolving Landscape of Ovarian Cancer Management: A Review

  • Cook, Sarah A.1
  • Tinker, Anna V.1
  • 1 BC Cancer, 600 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 4E6, Canada , Vancouver (Canada)
Published Article
Springer International Publishing
Publication Date
Mar 21, 2019
DOI: 10.1007/s40259-019-00347-4
Springer Nature


As a drug class, inhibitors of poly-(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) have had their greatest impact on the treatment of women with epithelial ovarian cancers (EOC), in particular, those with the most common histological subtype, high-grade serous cancer, as it has high rates of homologous recombination (HR) deficiency. PARP inhibition exploits this cancer vulnerability by further disrupting DNA repair, thus leading to genomic catastrophe. Early clinical data demonstrated the effectiveness of PARP inhibition in women with recurrent EOC harbouring BRCA1/2 mutations and those with platinum-sensitive recurrences. Three PARP inhibitors (olaparib, niraparib, and rucaparib) are now approved for use in women with recurrent EOC. Based upon randomised controlled trials, PARP inhibitors are in use as “maintenance” therapy for those with platinum-sensitive and platinum-responsive recurrences (irrespective of BRCA1/2 mutation status). Among women with BRCA1/2 mutations (either germline or somatic), maintenance PARP inhibitor therapy for those with recurrence has led to a nearly fourfold prolongation of progression-free survival compared to placebo control. Those without BRCA1/2 mutations experience an approximately twofold increase in progression-free survival. The latest clinical data demonstrate that women with BRCA1/2 mutations who respond to first-line chemotherapy and go on to have maintenance olaparib experience a doubling of the rate of freedom from death at 3 years when compared to placebo (60% vs 27%). PARP inhibitors are also approved as active therapy for women with germline or tumour BRCA1/2 mutations and recurrent EOC treated with three or more prior lines of therapy. Apart from the presence of a BRCA1/2 mutation (germline or somatic) and clinical factors such as platinum sensitivity and responsiveness, other predictive biomarkers are not in routine clinical use. Assays to identify genomic aberrations caused by HR deficiency, or mutations in genes involved in HR, have not been sufficiently sensitive to identify all patients who benefit from treatment. The mechanisms of PARP-inhibitor resistance include restoration of HR through reversion mutations in HR genes, capable of re-establishing the DNA open-reading frame and leading to resumed HR function. Other mechanisms that sustain sufficient DNA repair may also be important. This review focuses on the rationale for the use of PARP inhibitors in EOC. The data that have shaped clinical research are presented, and the trials that have changed management standards are reviewed and discussed. Highlighted are the past and ongoing efforts to further improve and explore the use of PARP inhibitors in EOC.

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