Olaparib (Lynparza) is a targeted therapy approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It treats metastatic breast cancer that is either hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative, or triple-negative, in people with an inherited BRCA gene mutation who have already been treated with chemotherapy.
Olaparib is the first PARP inhibitor to be approved in breast cancer. It is also the first medicine approved specifically for people who have breast cancer and a BRCA mutation. It was approved for use in ovarian cancer in December 2014.
Olaparib is a PARP inhibitor. PARP 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 cell DNA in people with BRCA mutations.
In a clinical trial, researchers found that participants who took olaparib went about 3 months longer without the cancer growing or spreading than participants who got standard chemotherapy. The cancer was also about twice as likely to shrink in those who took olaparib.
Olaparib is approved for use in people who tested positive for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation inherited from a parent and who have metastatic breast cancer that is either hormone receptor-positive and HER2-negative, or triple-negative. You must also have already been treated with chemotherapy to get olaparib.
The only way to know if you were born with a BRCA mutation is to get genetic testing. This testing is done using a blood, saliva or cheek-swab test. If you are interested in genetic testing, talk to your doctor.
In a clinical trial, researchers found olaparib had fewer serious side effects overall than standard chemotherapy. Its most common serious side effects are low blood cell counts, which can cause fatigue and increase the risk of infection. Rarely, low blood cells counts while taking PARP inhibitors are a sign of serious problems in the bone marrow, areas of fatty tissue 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
- nausea and vomiting
- tiredness or weakness
- sore throat or runny nose
- joint, muscle and back pain
- changes in the way food tastes
- loss of appetite
- mouth sores
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 medicine. 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.