Experimental breast cancer drug to be trialled in lung cancer patients

Cancer Research UK

A clinical trial using an experimental drug originally designed to treat breast cancer launches for patients with advanced lung cancer.

“We’re increasingly seeing that drugs originally designed for one type of cancer are proving to be effective for many other types." - Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK

The drug, called olaparib – a type of treatment called a PARP inhibitor – will be given after chemotherapy to patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) to see if it delays the growth of their tumour.

The phase II trial will recruit over 100 people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer at 25 hospitals around the UK. It is funded by Cancer Research UK and AstraZeneca through a National Cancer Research Network initiative and is being co-ordinated by Cancer Research UK’s Wales Cancer Trials Unit at Cardiff University and Velindre NHS Trust in Cardiff. 

On the trial, patients will first have chemotherapy and those who respond will then be given either olaparib or a placebo. They will be closely monitored to see how long the drug prevents their tumour from growing.

Around half of NSCLCs have faults in one of the ways they repair DNA damage.  Research has shown that adding a PARP inhibitor makes it even harder for the cancer to repair this damage – ultimately killing the lung cancer cells by targeting their key weakness. Olaparib is also being tested in phase III trials for ovarian and stomach cancers.

Professor Dean Fennell, the chief investigator based at the University of Leicester, said: “We urgently need better treatments for patients with lung cancer – just 30 per cent of them survive for a year after being diagnosed. We hope that using this drug that was originally developed for breast cancer will slow the progression of lung cancer, improving the quality of life for our patients.”

Around 42,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in the UK and it is the most common cause of cancer death.

The trial will be open through the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) Network, an initiative funded by Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Departments

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re increasingly seeing that drugs originally designed for one type of cancer are proving to be effective for many other types. It’s through research that we’ve seen how this PARP inhibitor could be effective in other cancers that have faults in their DNA repair mechanisms. We’re now taking this knowledge from the lab to see if and how it can help cancer patients.”

ENDS

For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.