These drugs may have a funny-sounding name, but many doctors think they might have a serious effect on breast cancer.
They’re called PARP inhibitors. Like many up-and-coming cancer drugs, they’ve been riding a research rollercoaster for the last three years. The drugs’ capacity to fight cancer has excited physicians, but setbacks last year caused some to wonder if they’d ever fulfill their promise.
George Somlo (Photo by p.cunningham)
Now PARP inhibitors are back in the limelight, and researchers such as George Somlo, M.D., co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at City of Hope, are feeling hopeful about them again.
Somlo points to a study that combined a PARP inhibitor called veliparib with the DNA-damaging chemotherapeutic drug carboplatin. The combination showed some encouraging results for patients with advanced breast cancer with mutations in genes called BRCA1 and BRCA 2, Somlo says, and more trials are coming.
PARP inhibitors are interesting because they keep cancer cells from repairing DNA damage, causing the cells to die. Scientists think the drugs may work especially well in cancers with BRCA mutations or “triple-negative” breast cancers — which are hard to treat.
“This family of drugs is promising because the drugs seem to be a little easier on healthy tissue, which helps reduce side effects, and they may make chemotherapy more effective,” says Somlo, who co-led the study with City of Hope’s Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics.
Interested in a trial of PARP inhibitors for breast or other cancers? Visit City of Hope’s clinical trials website or the National Institutes of Health’s clinical trials page and type “PARP” into the search box.