Olaparib is also called by its brand name Lynparza. It is a treatment for some types of ovarian cancer that have come back after treatment. It is for people who:
- have a change in a gene called BRCA
- have had a type of chemotherapy called platinum
You may also have it as part of a clinical trial for other cancers.
How it works
PARP is short for Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase. It is a protein that helps damaged cells to repair themselves. Olaparib stops PARP working.
Some cancer cells rely on PARP to keep their DNA healthy. This includes cancer cells with a change in the BRCA gene. So, when olaparib stops PARP from repairing DNA damage, the cancer cells die.
This type of drug is called a cancer growth blocker.
How you have it
Olaparib comes as both capsules and tablets. You usually take them two times a day, 12 hours apart. How you take them depends on whether you are taking capsules or tablets.
Capsules cannot be taken with food. You can take them either:
- 2 hours before food, or
- 1 hour after food
There are no food restrictions with the tablets.
Taking your tablets or capsules
You should take the right dose, not more or less.
Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.
When you have it
You usually carry on taking olaparib for as long as it works.
You have blood tests before and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.
We haven't listed all the side effects. It is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.
How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatment you are having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you are also having other drugs or radiotherapy.
When to contact your team
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:
- you have severe side effects
- your side effects aren’t getting any better
- your side effects are getting worse
Early treatment can help manage side effects better.
Common side effects
Each of these effects happens in more than 10 in 100 people (10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
Breathlessness and looking pale
You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is called anaemia.
Tiredness and weakness (fatigue)
Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) can happen during and after treatment - doing gentle exercises each day can keep your energy up. Don't push yourself, rest when you start to feel tired and ask others for help.
Feeling or being sick
Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Avoiding fatty or fried foods, eating small meals and snacks, drinking plenty of water, and relaxation techniques, can all help.
Contact your advice line if you have diarrhoea, that is 4 loose watery poos (stools) in 24 hours. Or if you can't drink to replace the lost fluid, or if it carries on for more than 3 days. Your doctor may give you anti diarrhoea medicine to take home with you after treatment. Eat less fibre, avoid raw fruits, fruit juice, cereals and vegetables, and drink plenty of liquid to replace the fluid lost.
Loss of appetite
You might lose your appetite for various reasons when you are having cancer treatment. Sickness, taste changes or tiredness can put you off food and drinks.
Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have indigestion or heartburn. They can prescribe medicines to help.
Taste changes may make you go off certain foods and drinks. You may also find that some foods taste different from usual or that you prefer to eat spicier foods. Your taste gradually goes back to normal a few weeks after your treatment finishes.
Headaches or dizziness
Let your doctor or nurse know if you have headaches. They can give you painkillers. Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery if you feel dizzy.
Talk to your doctor about this.
Occasional side effects
Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- changes to how your kidney works, you don't usually have any symptoms but it shows up in blood tests
- bruising, bleeding gums or nosebleeds
- increased risk of getting an infection
- sore mouth (mucositis)
- pain in upper part of stomach
Rare side effects
These effects happen in fewer than 1 in 100 people (1%). They include:
- secondary cancer
- inflammation of the lungs
Coping with side effects
We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.
What else do I need to know?
Other medicines, foods and drink
Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.
You should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice when you are taking this drug because it can react with the drug.
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 at least a month afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through into your breast milk.
Treatment for other conditions
Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.
Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.
In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and the shingles vaccine (Zostavax).
- have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- have the flu vaccine (as an injection)
- be in contact with other people who have had live vaccines as injections
Avoid close contact with people who have recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as oral polio or the typhoid vaccine.
This also includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s poo for up to 2 weeks and could make you ill. So avoid changing their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination if possible. Or wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterwards.
You should also avoid close contact with children who have had the flu vaccine nasal spray if your immune system is severely weakened.
More information about this treatment
For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.
You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.