(For full coverage of new data on cancer studies to be
presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, see:
* Experimental drug olaparib is a PARP inhibitor
* Median progression-free survival 8.4 months for olaparib
* Median progression-free survival 4.8 months for placebo
By Bill Berkrot
NEW YORK, May 18 An experimental AstraZeneca
(AZN.L) drug significantly delayed progression of a common and
aggressive form of ovarian cancer in patients who had responded
to chemotherapy, according to data to be presented at a major
The drug, olaparib, which was tested in a Phase II trial as
a so-called maintenance therapy, improved progression-free
survival by almost four months in women who had already
received at least two courses of platinum-based chemotherapy,
according to data from an abstract, or brief summary, of the
study released on Wednesday.
Those who received 400 milligrams of olaparib twice a day
had a median progression-free survival, or the amount of time
before the cancer returns or worsens, of 8.4 months. That
compared with 4.8 months for patients who were taking a
The results were considered by researchers to be highly
Results of the study, if confirmed in larger trials, could
lead to use of olaparib to prevent recurrences or prolong
remission in recurrent ovarian cancer.
Many cancer drugs are now being tested as maintenance
therapies, which could vastly increase sales of the medicines
compared with use in a finite treatment regimen.
"A well-tolerated antitumor agent that could be used for
months or perhaps years as maintenance therapy after standard
chemotherapy could be a big step forward and ultimately extend
survival," Dr. Jonathan Ledermann, the study's primary
investigator, said in a statement.
Overall survival data was not yet available from the study,
which included 265 patients with the most common form of
ovarian cancer who had maintained a partial or complete
response to chemotherapy.
The study will be presented next month at the American
Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.
Side effects more common to olaparib than placebo included
nausea, fatigue, vomiting and anemia.
Olaparib belongs to a class of drugs called PARP inhibitors
that help kill cancer cells by blocking an enzyme important in
repairing DNA damage.
"My guess is that this drug, and drugs in its class, will
find a very important place in prolonging remission in ovarian
cancer," ASCO Chief Executive Dr. Allen Lichter told reporters
on a conference call.
(Reporting by Bill Berkrot, additional reporting by Julie
Steenhuysen in Chicago, editing by Matthew Lewis)