Last year in the UK over 60,000 cancer patients enrolled on clinical trials aimed at improving cancer treatments and making them available to all.
A trial looking at olaparib for advanced solid tumours including breast or ovarian cancer in people with BRCA gene faults
This trial was looking at a new drug called olaparib (also known as AZD2281) for people with
Every cell contains DNA. This is the genetic information which controls how cells behave. If DNA becomes damaged (as in cancer cells), a protein called PARP-1 helps to repair it. Olaparib is a drug that stops PARP-1 from working. It is called a PARP-1 inhibitor. If PARP-1 doesn’t work, cancer cells can’t repair themselves and they die.
Up until this study, researchers had used capsules of olaparib in clinical trials. But people had to take a lot of capsules each day to get the full dose. And the capsules were quite large. In this trial, the researchers were looking at a new tablet form of the drug.
The aims of the trial were to
- Compare the amount of olaparib that is absorbed into the bloodstream when you have it as tablets, compared to capsules
- Learn more about the side effects
- See whether the tablet forms of olaparib helped people as much as the capsule form of the durg
Summary of results
The trial team found that the same amount of olaparib could be absorbed into the body by taking fewer, smaller tablets.
The first part of the trial recruited 24 people with advanced solid tumours who also had changes (
They took different doses of olaparib firstly as capsules and then a few days later as tablets. The researchers looked at what happened to the drug in the body. This is called
The researchers found that the same amount of olaparib was available in the bloodstream when people took fewer, smaller tablets.
The researchers then looked at different ways of taking olaparib tablets. In this part of the trial, there were 62 people who had breast or ovarian cancer with a BRCA gene mutation. They were put into treatment groups at random and had 1 of the following
- Olaparib tablets 3 times a day every day
- A higher dose of olaparib tablets 4 times a day every day
- Olaparib tablets 3 times a day for 2 weeks, followed by a week without taking the tablets (intermittent dosing)
- A higher dose of olaparib twice a day for 1 week, followed by 2 weeks without taking the tablets (intermittent dosing)
The researchers found that 3 of these treatment plans helped people as much as taking the capsules.
The side effects included
- Tiredness (fatigue)
- Feeling or being sick
- Loss of appetite
- A drop in the number of red blood cells causing tiredness and breathlessness
But apart from the group who had the higher intermittent dose, people found the side effects acceptable.
The researchers recommended that in future trials, olaparib tablets taken twice a day should be used instead of capsules.
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 (
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.
Dr Rhoda Molife
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)