The NICE approval is expected to benefit around 700 patients a year. Photo: iStock

A ‘game changing’ drug for advanced ovarian cancer has been approved for use in newly diagnosed patients on the NHS.

Lynparza (olaparib) by AstraZeneca is being made available through the Cancer Drugs Fund to help women with a genetic form of the cancer from an earlier stage of their treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) today recommended the medicine – previously used on women who already had at least three separate rounds of chemotherapy – for patients with a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer that has spread and who have the BRCA gene mutation.

“The availability of olaparib tablets as maintenance therapy is an important development in the management of BRCA mutation-positive advanced ovarian cancer.

“Olaparib is already used for ovarian cancer but is expected to have the greatest benefit when used early, and is considered to have the potential to cure the disease in some people if given before the first recurrence,” said Meindert Boysen of NICE.

Olaparib is a PARP inhibitor drug that prevents the PARP protein in cancer cells from repairing damaged DNA, causing the cancer cells to die. An ongoing clinical trial (SOLO-1) so far estimates olaparib delays disease progression around three years compared to placebo.

Dr Susana Banerjee, consultant medical oncologist at The Royal Marsden said: “Maintenance treatment with olaparib heralds a new era for women with ovarian cancer; this is the first time we have seen such dramatic improvements in progression-free survival. This means that more women will have a longer time before relapse, time of chemotherapy and the possibility of increased survival.”

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