Lynparza pill curbed recurrence, death in early-stage breast cancer patients, study finds

AstraZeneca's Lynparza drug cut the combined risk of recurrence of cancer or death from any cause by 42 percent among early-stage breast cancer patients with certain mutations, compared to those who received a placebo, according to research published June 3 in The New England Journal of Medicine

The international study, which was sponsored by AstraZeneca, began in 2014 and involved 1,836 patients, including from the U.S. All of the patients had early-stage BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancer. About half of the women were randomly selected to receive Lynparza and half received a placebo. 

Overall, the pill reduced the risk of invasive breast cancer recurrences, second cancers or death by 42 percent, compared to the placebo. After a three-year follow-up period, nearly 86 percent of women who received Lynparza were living free of cancer, compared to 77.1 percent of women who received the placebo. 

Initially, the drug was associated with fewer deaths (59) than the placebo, (86) though researchers did not observe a statistically significant difference during follow-up. 

Prior to the study, all participants had received standard initial breast cancer treatments, including surgery to remove tumors and chemotherapy, and remained at high risk of recurrence. 

"Patients with early-stage breast cancer who have inherited BRCA mutations are typically diagnosed at a younger age compared to those without a mutation," said Andrew Tutt, chair of the trial's steering committee and oncology professor at the The Institute of Cancer Research in London. "Olaparib (Lynparza) has the potential to be used as a follow-up to all the standard initial breast cancer treatments to reduce the rate of life-threatening recurrence and cancer spread for many patients identified through genetic testing to have mutations in these genes." 

Lynparza is a PARP inhibitor, a group of cancer drugs that work by preventing cancer cells from repairing their damaged DNA, thus allowing them to die.

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