Jan 012012

(January 1, 2012) In a surprise announcement, AstraZeneca put out a press release in late December announcing the cancellation Phase 3 development for olaparib. The official reason given for abandoning development was as follows:

“The decision to discontinue olaparib’s development in serous ovarian cancer was made following a review of an interim analysis of a Phase II study (study 19) which indicated that the previously reported progression free survival benefit is unlikely to translate into an overall survival benefit, the definitive measure of patient benefit in ovarian cancer. In addition, attempts to identify a suitable tablet dose for use in Phase III studies have not been successful. No new safety concerns were identified for patients.”

Olaparib was an oral PARP inhibitor that was being praised for its ability to help inhibit the repair of cancer cells in advanced ovarian cancer patients.

The announcement came despite a recently published study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology Website which found that olaparib, a PARP Inhibitor, has an effect during the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer.

The official conclusion of the study was:

“The efficacy of olaparib was consistent with previous studies. However, the efficacy of PLD was greater than expected. Olaparib 400 mg twice per day is a suitable dose to explore in further studies in this patient population.”

In response to the news of the discontinued development of Olaparib, Barclays of London told investors, “AstraZeneca seems to have had more than its fair share of misfortune when it comes to the development pipeline.”

It’s not only a setback to AstraZeneca, but also to the promise it had brought to those suffering from ovarian cancer.

Aug 152010

Dear Parp Inhibitors Cancer,
What is Olaparib?

Olaparib is an inhibitor of the enzyme Poly ADP ribose polymerase (PARP). It was one of the first PARP inhibitors developed by KuDOS Pharmaceuticals that was later bought out by AstraZeneca. More specifically olaparib is an experimental drug that has been shown in studies to shrink or stabilize tumors in almost 50% of ovarian cancer patients possessing BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. Studies so far haven’t shown major side effects in people, but those who did have them reported some fatigue, somnolence, nausea, loss of appetite and thrombocytopenia.

In the most simplistic form of explanation, an olaparib operates by turning a tumor’s specific genetic defect against itself. In vulnerable cells, olaparib blocks the repair of naturally occurring breaks in the DNA, which healthy cells are normally able to repair. Thus the vulnerable cancer cells (considered those with an existing defect in a DNA repair pathway caused by a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes) are unable to repair themselves. Those cells then die.

Aug 112010

AstraZeneca stands to benefit greatly from the successful studies, to date, on the use of Parp Inhibitors in the treatment of cancer. The targeted treatment received mass publicity in June 2009 when a study came out showed great promise and results. So how did AstraZeneca become involved with parp inhibitors? In 2006, AstraZeneca acquired a privately owned UK-based pharmaceutical company experimenting with parp inhibitors in the treatment of cancer. The company, KuDOS Pharmaceuticals Limited, was bought for nearly $200 million. At the time, AstraZeneca put out a press release stating, in part:

“The acquisition of KuDOS Pharmaceuticals represents an important strategic step for AstraZeneca: strengthening its portfolio of promising cancer treatments from external opportunities and also demonstrating its commitment to discover, develop and bring to market innovative therapies.

This transaction provides AstraZeneca with a widely-recognised expert group and technology platform in an area of research that complements internal capabilities in oncology, one of the company’s key therapy areas. The DNA repair platform developed by KuDOS Pharmaceuticals, in association with its founder Professor Stephen Jackson of Cambridge University, includes several different approaches towards inhibition of enzymes involved in the responses to various types of DNA damage. DNA repair inhibitors have the potential to kill cancer cells either as stand-alone therapy or by enhancing the efficacy of chemo- and radio-therapies.”

Now AstraZeneca stands to profit nicely if the study of parp inhibitors continue to produce positive results. Parp inhibitors have been shown to stop tumor cell DNA from repairing itself when a patient goes through chemotherapy. That’s a vital step forward in the treatment of cancer. If further studies continue to back the initial results, then parp inhibitors will be considered one of the biggest breakthroughs in the treatment of cancer in decades. And AstraZeneca will be at the forefront of that movement, thanks to a purchase made in 2006 that is paying off big for AstraZeneca and for those hoping for advances in cancer treatment.