‘Jolie gene’ drug can help prostate pa­tients

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Henry Bod­kin Health Cor­re­spon­dent

A breast cancer drug has been used to ex­tend sur­vival in men with ad­vanced prostate cancer, be­com­ing the first suc­cess­ful “pre­ci­sion medicine” for the dis­ease. Doc­tors at the Royal Mars­den Hos­pi­tal who con­ducted the trial said the re­sults amounted to a “rev­o­lu­tion”. The sur­vival of men in the trial in­creased on av­er­age from 3.6 to 7.4 months. The drug has proven ben­e­fits for women with breast cancer who have BRCA gene mu­ta­tion made fa­mous by An­gelina Jolie.

A BREAST CANCER drug has been used to ex­tend sur­vival in men with ad­vanced prostate cancer, be­com­ing the first suc­cess­ful “pre­ci­sion medicine” for the dis­ease.

Doc­tors at the Royal Mars­den Hos­pi­tal who con­ducted the trial say the re­sults amount to a “rev­o­lu­tion” in prostate cancer care.

They con­ducted ge­netic test­ing on more than 4,400 pa­tients to iden­tify those with one or more of 15 types of DNA fault. Those who qual­i­fied were given ola­parib, a course of pills com­monly used to treat breast and ovar­ian cancer but not cur­rently li­censed for prostate cancer.

The men in the trial had al­ready failed to re­spond to hor­mone ther­apy and their prog­noses were poor.

How­ever, their length of pro­gres­sion­free sur­vival, a pe­riod dur­ing which the cancer does not get worse, in­creased, on av­er­age, from 3.6 to 7.4 months. This shows that us­ing DNA test­ing to match pa­tients with al­ready avail­able drugs can “trans­form” the treat­ment of the most com­mon type of male cancer, ac­cord­ing to the re­searchers.

The trial, which is be­ing pre­sented at the Euro­pean So­ci­ety for Med­i­cal On­col­ogy an­nual congress in Barcelona, co­in­cides with a new study in the jour­nal Na­ture, which sug­gests that us­ing ge­netic in­for­ma­tion to re­pur­pose un­li­censed or “off-la­bel” drugs could ben­e­fit around a third of pa­tients for whom stan­dard ther­a­pies do not work.

Ola­parib works by block­ing a pro­tein that fu­els cancer by help­ing dam­aged cells to re­pair them­selves.

Its proven ben­e­fits for women with breast and ovar­ian cancer who have BRCA gene mu­ta­tion – made fa­mous by An­gelina Jolie – led sci­en­tists to test for these and other faults in men. They found that 80 per cent of men whose tu­mours had faults in the BRCA genes re­sponded to ola­parib. The teams at the In­sti­tute of Cancer Re­search (ICR), The Royal Mars­den and North­west­ern Univer­sity in Chicago said this proved that, rather than be­ing a sin­gle ill­ness, prostate cancer is a se­ries of sub-types of the dis­ease, re­quir­ing tai­lored treat­ment for in­di­vid­ual pa­tients.

Ap­prox­i­mately 47,700 men re­ceive a di­ag­no­sis in the UK each year, with 11,600 dy­ing from the dis­ease.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, from Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This hugely ex­cit­ing re­sult rep­re­sents a rev­o­lu­tion in the treat­ment of prostate cancer. It fi­nally brings prostate cancer medicine into the 21st cen­tury by giv­ing us, for the first time ever, a ther­apy that makes use of ge­netic test­ing of the tu­mour to work out which men will ben­e­fit.”

Prof Jo­hann de Bono, a con­sul­tant on­col­o­gist at The Royal Mars­den and ICR, said: “I hope that within the next cou­ple of years, ola­parib will be­come the first pre­ci­sion medicine to be­come avail­able as a stan­dard treat­ment for men with prostate cancer.”

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