Olaparib

Updated 
April 17, 2018
Reviewed By: 

Olaparibinfo-icon (Lynparza) is a targeted therapyinfo-icon approved by the Food and Drug Administrationinfo-icon. It treats metastaticinfo-icon breast cancer that is either hormone receptorinfo-icon-positive and HER2-negative, or triple-negative, in people with an inheritedinfo-icon BRCA geneinfo-icon mutationinfo-icon who have already been treated with chemotherapyinfo-icon.

Olaparib is the first PARP inhibitorinfo-icon to be approved in breast cancer. It is also the first medicineinfo-icon approved specifically for people who have breast cancer and a BRCA mutation. It was approved for use in ovarian cancerinfo-icon in December 2014.

How Olaparib Works

Olaparibinfo-icon is a PARP inhibitorinfo-icon. PARPinfo-icon inhibitors can cause cancer cells to die by stopping an enzyme in the body, known as poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, or PARP, from repairing cancer cellinfo-icon DNA in people with BRCA mutations.

In a clinical trialinfo-icon, researchers found that participants who took olaparib went about 3 months longer without the cancer growing or spreading than participants who got standard chemotherapyinfo-icon.  The cancer was also about twice as likely to shrink in those who took olaparib.

Who Gets Olaparib

Olaparibinfo-icon is approved for use in people who tested positive for a BRCA1info-icon or BRCA2info-icon geneinfo-icon mutationinfo-icon inheritedinfo-icon from a parent and who have metastaticinfo-icon breast cancer that is either hormone receptorinfo-icon-positive and HER2-negative, or triple-negative.  You must also have already been treated with chemotherapyinfo-icon to get olaparib.

The only way to know if you were born with a BRCA mutation is to get genetic testinginfo-icon. This testing is done using a blood, saliva or cheek-swab test. If you are interested in genetic testing, talk to your doctor.

How Olaparib Is Given

Olaparibinfo-icon is a pill. It is usually taken twice every day, at least 12 hours apart, with or without food.

Side Effects and Things to Remember

In a clinical trialinfo-icon, researchers found olaparibinfo-icon had fewer serious side effects overall than standard chemotherapyinfo-icon. Its most common serious side effects are low blood cell counts, which can cause fatigue and increase the risk of infectioninfo-icon. Rarely, low blood cells counts while taking PARPinfo-icon inhibitors are a sign of serious problems in the bone marrow, areas of fatty tissueinfo-icon in the bones in which blood cells are made. Because of this, your health care providers should do blood tests before you begin treatment with olaparib, and throughout your treatment with it.

Other common side effects include

Rarely, PARP inhibitors may cause serious lung problems. Though it’s unlikely you’ll have serious lung problems while taking olaparib, if you feel new or worsening shortness of breath, fever, coughing, or wheezing, tell your doctor right away.

Tell your doctor about any medicines, supplements or herbal remedies you are taking before starting olaparib. You should avoid eating grapefruits, and a type of orange called bitter orange or Seville orange, which is often used in marmalade. You should also avoid any food or drinks that contain grapefruit or bitter orange, or their juices, while taking this medicineinfo-icon. These fruits can affect the way your body absorbs olaparib.

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant or start breastfeeding. Olaparib may be dangerous to a fetus so it is recommended that you not take this medicine while pregnant. It is also advised that you avoid getting pregnant until at least 6 months after you have stopped treatment with it. It is not known if olaparib is transferred through breast milk, so you should not breastfeed while taking olaparib or for 1 month after you stop treatment.

Talk to your doctor about any side effects you experience and how to manage them.