Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.
A trial looking at olaparib for non small cell lung cancer (PIN)
This trial looked at olaparib for non small cell lung cancer (NCSLC) that had spread to another part of the body. It was supported by Cancer Research UK.
The trial was open for people to join between 2014 and 2017, and the team presented the results in 2020.
More about this trial
Doctors can treat lung cancer that has spread (advanced cancer) with chemotherapy. But sometimes it doesn’t work as well as they hope it will.
The researchers hoped that having olaparib after chemotherapy may help stop non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) growing. In this trial some people had olaparib, and some had a dummy drug (placebo).
The main aims of this trial were to find out:
- if olaparib can help stop non small cell lung cancer coming back after chemotherapy
- if olaparib can help people with advanced non small cell lung cancer live longer
- more about the side effects
Summary of results
The research team found that olaparib may help people with advanced non small cell lung cancer, but they couldn’t say for sure.
This trial was for people who had non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that had spread to another part of the body (advanced cancer).
Everyone taking part had chemotherapy to begin with, and then had a scan to see how well treatment had worked. People whose cancer had got smaller were then put into 1 of 2 treatment groups at random:
- half had olaparib
- half had a dummy (placebo)
They took either olaparib or placebo tablets twice a day. They did this until there were signs that their cancer had started to grow, or they had severe side effects.
A total of 264 people took part in this trial. They had chemotherapy to begin with, and then a scan to see how well this treatment had worked.
The cancer had got smaller in 70 people. They went on to the next part of the trial and were put into a treatment group at random. There were:
- 32 people in the olaparib group
- 38 people in the dummy (placebo) group
The research team looked at how long it was before the cancer started to grow again. It was:
- 16.6 months for those who had olaparib
- 12.0 months for those who had the placebo
They also looked at how long people lived and found it was:
- just under 14 months (59 weeks) for those who had olaparib
- just over 7 months (31 weeks) for those who had the placebo
The results of the two groups look quite different. But there weren’t many people in each group. So the research team can’t say for sure that the differences between the groups are due to the different treatments. They could be due to chance.
Everyone who took part had at least 1 side effect from the treatment. But many were mild or didn’t last long. The most common side effects were:
- feeling or being sick
- shortness of breath
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- a drop in red blood cells and white blood cells
About 3 out of 10 people (29%) had a more severe side effect.
The research team concluded that olaparib may help stop advanced lung cancer coming back after chemotherapy. But they can’t say for sure because of the small number of people in each group.
They think that this treatment may work better for people with certain genetic changes. They suggest further work is done to find out more about this.
Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Dean Fennell
Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Velindre NHS Trust