Treating BRCA-Negative Pancreatic Cancer Patients with a Family Cancer History Similar to BRCA Carriers

A Paper Model Of DNA To Illustrate Genetic Testing
Credit: Jorge C. Lucero; Flickr
Typically, PARP inhibitors are more effective in BRCA carriers. Can a PARP inhibitor work against metastatic pancreatic cancer in patients who are not carriers of the BRCA gene mutations?

Carriers of the BRCA mutations are more likely to get breast, ovarian, and also pancreatic cancers. But some people who do not carry this mutation also have similar family histories of cancer. Researchers are testing the PARP inhibitor olaparib in the BRCA-negative pancreatic cancer patients, to see if their tumors respond to treatment in a similar manner to BRCA carriers.

What is a PARP Inhibitor?

The drug being tested in this study is the PARP inhibitor olaparib, a drug that works well in patients with the BRCA mutation. The PARP enzyme is important in repairing small breaks in single DNA strands. Drugs that block the action of PARP make the enzyme ineffective at repairing the small breaks. The unrepaired small breaks then generate breaks in both strands of the DNA during cell replication, leading to cell death. Cancer cells replicate their DNA more often than normal cells, which is why PARP inhibitors can be an effective part of cancer treatment.

BRCA-Negative but with a Similar Family History of Cancer

Scientists have found that other genetic mutations can be present in families with a history of the same cancers associated with the BRCA mutations. In this clinical trial, researchers want to find out if olaparib is effective in metastatic pancreatic cancer patients who have tumor mutations that are similar to BRCA mutations.

All participants will receive chemotherapy with olaparib, the treatment being studied. To qualify for this trial, patients must have received prior treatment for pancreatic cancer. Potential participants must undergo genetic testing of their tumor to be sure that they qualify for this study.

We encourage you to consult your physicians for clinical trials that may be right for you. The website provides more details about this trial as well as many others. You can visit the Clinical Trials Finder for a listing of all active pancreatic cancer clinical trials.

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