According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common type of cancer globally and accounts for 12% of all new cancer cases each year.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the genes most commonly associated with hereditary breast cancer, whose role is to produce proteins to help repair damaged DNA and preserve the genetic stability of cells. When either one of these genes has a mutation, DNA damage may not be repaired correctly. Consequently, the stability of cells is compromised and the person becomes more likely to develop additional genetic mutations that can cause cancer. Many Ashkenazi Jews are carriers of the BRCA 1 & 2 genes, which typically raises their risks of developing breast and ovarian cancers.
AstraZeneca and Merck’s Lynparza (Olaparib) is a new PARP inhibitor – a drug targeting a weakness in cancer’s DNA in order to stop cancer cells from repairing themselves after damage from chemotherapy. The new drug specifically targets BRCA mutations.
According to a new Israeli study, conducted by the country’s premier medical institutions, led by Sheba Medical Center, Lynparza demonstrated a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in invasive disease-free survival versus placebo in the adjuvant treatment of patients with early BRCA mutation-related breast cancer.
This is the first time that any medicine targeting a BRCA mutation has demonstrated the potential to change the course of early-stage breast cancer and offer hope for a cure.
In the overall trial population of patients who had completed local treatment and standard neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy, results showed Lynparza, the new drug, reduced the risk of invasive breast cancer relapse, second cancers, or death by 42%.
These unprecedented results suggest that Lynparza could play a central role in the battle as a new drug to be able to cure early-stage breast cancer. According to Lori J. Pierce, President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the study can prove to have an “important impact” on the treatment of many breast cancer patients.
The study, set to be published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, will also be presented at the coming annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Among the 4 researchers who headed the study was Sheba’s own Prof. Bella Kaufman, a breast cancer victim herself who tragically passed away as a result of the malignancy this past month. Prof. Kaufman, who dedicated her life to advancing BRCA gene research and breast cancer treatments, shed tears of joy upon receiving the news regarding the study’s success on her deathbed. She will be sorely missed.