Lynparza, a drug developed by AstraZeneca, can help slow down the progression of advanced breast cancer, according to a new clinical trial. It can help patients avoid or delay sessions of chemotherapy.

Lynparza reduces the chances of women developing a type of inherited breast cancer by 42 percent, which is linked to BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene mutation. Apparently, the drug also reduces the size of tumors in 3 out of 5 patients.

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“This represents a real improvement in the care of women,” said Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. “Not only are the responses better, the quality of life is better as well, which should always be an important part of the conversation.”

Lynparza is more effective than chemotherapy

AstraZeneca’s drug can help those women who are affected by a breast cancer caused partially by the mutation in the BRCA gene, which is an inherited type of cancer that causes about 3 percent of all breast cancer worldwide. This kind of cancer is hard to treat, and it generally affects young women who have to go through a double mastectomy to lower their risk.

To test the drug, scientists made a clinical trial with 302 women of around 44 years old, who had this inherited type of breast cancer. The study showed that those who received the drug had 42 percent fewer chances to see their cancer spread than those who only went through chemotherapy. It also demonstrated that Lynparza slows up the development of cancer for seven months, while the median progression for women who were on conventional therapy was 4.2 months. The study findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago

“Clearly the drug was more effective than traditional chemotherapy,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

The tumor also shrinks in most cases where the patients were using Lynparza.

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Image credit: Bloomberg

60 percent of the patients had a good response to Lynparza

60 percent of the patients who received this medication responded to the therapy, while only 29 percent of those who only went through chemotherapy responded satisfactorily. They also saw progress in women with the “triple-negative” breast cancer which is considered to be one of the worst types of cancer to treat. Lynparza might also be able to reduce the side effects of treatment in women with breast cancer since only 37 percent of the women who were given the medication had serious side effects, compared to the 50 percent of the women who received just chemotherapy.

The study also shows that Lynparza might give patients the opportunity to avoid chemotherapy, according to AstraZeneca Chief Medical Officer Sean Bohen. If that ends up being true, and Lynparza is approved, then it would expand the chances and the ways to treat the disease.

Mutations in the BRCA gene raise the risks of cancer because the body is not able to repair the damages in the DNA, so mutations are more likely to lead to tumors. Lynparza only works in the types of cancer with BRCA mutation.

Lynparza was originally used to treat ovarian tumors

Lynparza is one of the drugs known as PARP inhibitors.  It was approved to treat inherited ovarian cancer. The other PARP inhibitors approved are Zejula, made by a small company called Tesaro, and Rubraca, from another small firm, called Clovis Oncology. If it is approved for breast cancer, then it opens up a new market for these drugs that might generate about 1.2 billion by 2020. Last year, only Lynparza produced $218 million in sales, but this number is definitely growing once it is approved for the treatment of breast cancer.

Another pharmaceutical, AbbVie Inc, had its experimental drug tested but it failed in April, which makes AstraZeneca’s the first to actually show the potential of PARP drugs to treat breast cancer that is caused by an inherited mutation.

However, more research will be needed to know exactly if the results of the study are accurate.

“It worked across the board,” said lead author Mark Robson, who is clinic director of the clinical genetics services at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “Everybody we treated seemed to derive a benefit.”

PARP inhibitors work by stopping a protein named PARP which has a role in the repair of the DNA. It hinders the ability of cancer cell to repair themselves. They can stop the uncontrolled growth of cells a process that paths the way to the development of cancer. This is certainly the first time patients with breast cancer have shown an improvement with PARP inhibitors.

About 250,000 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S according to the American Cancer Society, which means it is the most common type of cancer in women.

Source: Forbes