This page tells you about the biological therapy olaparib (pronounced oh-lap-a-rib). There are sections on
Olaparib is pronounced oh-lap-a-rib. It is also called by its brand name Lynparza. It is a type of biological therapy drug called a PARP-1 inhibitor.
It is a treatment for ovarian cancer. It is for people who have a change in a gene called BRCA.
You may also have it as part of a trial for other cancers.
PARP is short for Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. It is a protein that helps damaged cells to repair themselves. Olaparib stops PARP working.
Cancer cells with a change in the BRCA gene rely on PARP to keep their DNA healthy. So, when olaparib stops PARP from repairing DNA damage, the cancer cells die.
Olaparib comes as capsules. You take up to 8 capsules which you take 2 times a day, 12 hours apart.
If you take the capsules after eating, you must wait at least one hour before you take it. And after taking olaparib you should wait at least 2 hours before you eat again.
It is very important that you take the capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you. For example, whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream. So check the pack leaflet and follow the instructions it gives. You should take the right dose, not more or less. And never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.
You usually carry on taking olaparib for as long as it works.
You have blood tests before starting treatment and regularly during your treatment. The tests check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.
We've listed the side effects associated with olaparib. You can use the links to find out more about each side effect. Where there is no link, please go to our information about cancer drug side effects or use the search box at the top of the page.
You may have a few side effects. They may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get better or worse through your course of treatment. Or more side effects may develop as the course goes on. This depends on
- How many times you've had the drug before
- Your general health
- The amount of the drug you have (the dose)
The side effects may be different if you are having olaparib with other medicines.
Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if any of the side effects get severe.
More than 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these side effects
- An increased risk of getting an infection from a drop in white blood cells – it is harder to fight infections and you can become very ill. You may have headaches, aching muscles, a cough, a sore throat, pain passing urine, or you may feel cold and shivery. If you have a severe infection this can be life threatening. Contact your treatment centre straight away if you have any of these effects or if your temperature goes above 38°C
- Tiredness and breathlessness from a drop in red blood cells (anaemia). You may need a blood transfusion
- Diarrhoea affects nearly 30 out of 100 people (30%). Drink plenty of fluids. Tell your doctor or nurse if you are worried about how bad it is, or if it continues for more than 3 days
- Tiredness and weakness occurs in around 50 out of 100 people (50%) during and after treatment
- Feeling or being sick – around 65 out of 100 people (65%) feel sick, and around 40 out of 100 people (40%) are sick. This is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines
- Indigestion occurs in almost 20 out of 100 people (20%)
- Loss of appetite happens in around 20 out of 100 people (20%)
- Headaches happen in around 20 out of 100 people (20%)
- Taste changes happen in almost 20 out of 100 people (20%)
- Dizziness happens in around 15 out of 100 people (15%)
- Kidney changes, which are unlikely to cause any symptoms. This usually goes back to normal when you finish treatment
Between 1 and 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these side effects
Fewer than 1 in 100 people have these side effects.
- Inflammation of the lungs which can make you feel short of breath. (pneumonitis) Tell your doctor straight away if you have new breathing changes or they become worse
- A blood disorder which causes a drop in number of normal blood cells (myelodysplastic syndrome) or blood cancers (acute myeloid leukaemia)
Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so that they can help you manage them. They can give you advice or reassure you. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.
Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Some drugs can react together.
Pregnancy and contraception
This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment with this drug and for one month afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
Do not breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in the breast milk
You should not have immunisations with live vaccines while you are having this treatment or for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, these include rubella, mumps, measles (usually given together as MMR), BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).
You can have other vaccines, but they may not give you as much protection as usual until your immune system has fully recovered from your treatment. It is safe to have the flu vaccine.
It is safe for you to be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections. There can be problems with vaccines you take by mouth (oral vaccines), but not many people in the UK have these now. So there is usually no problem in being with any baby or child who has recently had any vaccination in the UK. You might need to make sure that you aren't in contact with anyone who has had oral polio, cholera or typhoid vaccination recently, particularly if you live abroad.
We don’t list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at www.medicines.org.uk/emc.
If you have a side effect we don’t list here and you think it may be due to this treatment, you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA). Go to www.mhra.gov.uk
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