A study looking at AZD2281 to treat cancer of the ovary

Cancer type:

Ovarian cancer




Phase 2

This study was to see if an experimental drug called AZD2281 (also known as olaparib) could help to control the most common type of ovarian cancer after chemotherapy. This trial was for women with serous type epithelial ovarian cancer.

More about this trial

Doctors usually treat cancer of the ovary with surgery, often followed by chemotherapy. If the chemotherapy has controlled your cancer, you do not have further treatment at this stage, but you visit your specialist doctor regularly to monitor your cancer.

Researchers are looking for treatments that may help to either keep the cancer away, or under control after you finish chemotherapy. Olaparib works by stopping an enzyme Open a glossary item called PARP from helping to repair damaged cells. Doctors hoped that if they could stop PARP working, cancer cells would not be able to repair themselves after chemotherapy. The aims of this study were to

  • Find out if olaparib could help to control cancer of the ovary after chemotherapy
  • Learn more about the side effects of olaparib

Summary of results

The researchers found that olaparib could help to control ovarian cancer after chemotherapy.

The trial recruited 265 women with ovarian cancer. All the women taking part had already had chemotherapy that included a platinum drug Open a glossary item and their cancer had responded to this treatment.

This was a randomised trial. The women taking part were put into 1 of 2 treatment groups at random. Neither the women nor their doctors could decide which group they were in. And neither knew which group they were in either. This is called a double blind trial.

  • 136 women had olaparib
  • 129 women had a dummy drug (placebo Open a glossary item)

The researchers looked at how long it was before the cancer started growing again. They found that on average, it was

  • Over 8 months for women who had olaparib
  • Less than 5 months for women who had the dummy drug

More women in the olaparib group had side effects such as sickness, tiredness (fatigue) and a drop in the number of red blood cells (anaemia Open a glossary item).

Most side effects were quite mild, but 41 women in the olaparib group and 12 women in the placebo group had to have a break in their treatment due to side effects. And 26 women in the olaparib group and 3 in the placebo group had a reduction in dose due to side effects. The number of women who stopped treatment completely because of bad side effects was 3 in the olaparib group and 1 in the placebo group.

The trial team found that on average, women who took olaparib had a longer time without any sign of their cancer coming back than women who took the dummy drug. Doctors call this an improvement in progression free survival.

In March 2012 the researchers published the results in a scientific journal where it was noted that the overall length of time the women lived (whether or not their cancer gets worse) was similar between the 2 groups - researchers call this overall survival. The researchers are now looking to see whether there are patients in the study with certain types of ovarian cancer where there might be a difference in overall survival between the 2 groups.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal.  The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Professor Jonathan Ledermann

Supported by

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 4310

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Charlie took part in a trial to try new treatments

A picture of Charlie

“I think it’s really important that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”

Last reviewed:

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