ICR welcomes OlympiA trial showing targeted drug improves survival in early-stage breast cancer with inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation


The Institute of Cancer Research, London, strongly welcomes new findings that the targeted drug olaparib improves survival in women with high-risk, early-stage breast cancer who have inherited faults in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

New results from the major phase III OlympiA trial show that olaparib added to standard treatment cuts the risk of women dying by 32 per cent – resulting in more women remaining cancer free after their initial treatment.

BIG coordinated the international OlympiA study, involving 671 study locations, globally across multiple partners. Professor Andrew Tutt at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and King’s College London was Chair of the Steering Committee for the study, and was also involved in early laboratory research on PARP inhibitors such as olaparib, and their subsequent clinical development.

OlympiA trial researchers studied 1,836 patients with HER-2 negative breast cancer, who also had a mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and had undergone standard treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapies and radiotherapy, where appropriate. Patients were randomly allocated to receive either 300mg twice day of olaparib or a placebo for one year and were then followed up.

The trial will follow participants for a total of 10 years but reported its first results after just two and a half years following a planned review by an independent monitoring committee which found that olaparib reduced the risk of breast cancer returning by 42 per cent.

Olaparib targets the specific biology of the BRCA genes, killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) worked with many partners including Breast Cancer Now and Cancer Research UK to discover how to use olaparib and other PARP inhibitor drugs for patients with mutations in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or faults in other DNA repair genes.

This research paved the way for many clinical trials with international partners which have led to the development of olaparib as a treatment for some patients with advanced ovarian, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer.

OlympiA steering committee chair Professor Andrew Tutt, Professor of Oncology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and King’s College London, said:

“Today’s results are great news for many women with inherited breast cancer. Most breast cancers are identified in the early stages and many patients will do very well, but for some, the risk of cancer returning remains unacceptably high, even after chemotherapy.

“OlympiA has shown that after selecting women with inherited BRCA mutations through genetic testing, we can use olaparib to directly target the weakness in their cancer and improve their survival. I hope to see BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing used for more women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, so that we can determine who can benefit from this personalised treatment approach. Olaparib provides a much needed new individualised and targeted treatment option to keep more women with inherited breast cancer free of disease and alive and well after their initial treatment.”