Olaparib is also called by its brand name Lynparza. It is a treatment for some people with:
- ovarian cancer
- fallopian tube cancer
- peritoneal cancer
It is for people who have a change in a gene called BRCA.
It’s given if your cancer has come back (relapsed) after previously having a type of chemotherapy called platinum chemotherapy.
This drug is also used for people who have responded well to platinum chemotherapy. They have this as maintenance treatment after chemotherapy.
Maintenance treatment aims to stop cancer from coming back or growing for as long as possible. This may not be suitable for everyone. Ask your doctor whether this treatment is suitable for you.
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 is a type of targeted cancer drug, 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
Your team will give you either 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.
How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatments you're having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you're 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.
We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.
Common side effects
These side effects happen in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 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.
Let your doctor or nurse know if you have headaches. They can give you painkillers. Don’t drive or operate machinery if you feel dizzy.
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.
It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treating it once it has started.
Contact your advice line if you have diarrhoea, such as if you've had 4 or more 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 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 returns to normal a few weeks after your treatment finishes.
Headaches or dizziness
Talk to your doctor about this.
Occasional side effects
These side effects happen in between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people (between 1 and 10%). 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
This side effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%). You might have one or more of them. 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 one of the shingles vaccines called Zostavax.
You can have:
- other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- the flu vaccine (as an injection)
- the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine - talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best time to have it in relation to your cancer treatment
Members of your household who are aged 5 years or over are also able to have the COVID-19 vaccine. This is to help lower your risk of getting COVID-19 while having cancer treatment and until your
Contact with others who have had immunisations - You can 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 the oral typhoid vaccine.
If your immune system is severely weakened, you should avoid contact with children who have had the flu vaccine as a nasal spray as this is a live vaccine. This is for 2 weeks following their vaccination.
Babies have the live rotavirus vaccine. The virus is in the baby’s poo for about 2 weeks and could make you ill if your immunity is low. Get someone else to change their nappies during this time if you can. If this isn't possible, wash your hands well after changing their nappy.
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.
This page is due for review. We will update this as soon as possible.