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New Treatment Offers Hope For Breast And Ovarian Cancer Patients

Update Date: Jun 09, 2017 06:41 PM EDT

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found a new gene therapy that could potentially target a type of inherited and incurable breast cancer known to affect younger women.

During a study presented at the world's largest cancer conference, researchers discovered that the drug olaparib is less toxic for patients with inherited BRCA-related breast cancer, and could potentially decrease cancer growth by three months.

"Although previous studies suggested olaparib could benefit patients with advanced breast cancers, we are now reporting that olaparib improves profession-free survival better than standard chemotherapy," study co-author Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Research Center for BRCA at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center said. "Based on our previous work, leaders in BRCA research have been advocating for this trial for many years, urging pharmaceutical companies to focus on efforts that are now generating new therapies for our patients."

While the new treatment is responding, researchers said there's still not enough data to prove whether patients survived longer as a result.

"We are in our infancy," wrote Dr. Daniel Hayes, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and professor of breast cancer research at the University of Michigan wrote. "This is clearly an advance; this is clearly proof of concept these can work with breast cancer."

According to Dr. Hayes, olaparib is part of a developing field of "precision medicine," which targets patients' genes to tailor treatment.

"It is a perfect example of how understanding a patient's genetics and the biology of their tumor can be used to target its weaknesses and personalize treatment," Andrew Tutt, director of the Breast Cancer Now Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research said. "Olaparib is already available for women with BRCA-mutant advanced ovarian cancer, and is the first drug to be approved that is directed against an inherited genetic mutation."

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved olaparib to treat ovarian cancer with BRCA mutations.

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