A BREAST cancer drug could boost survival for thousands of men with deadly prostate tumours, “hugely exciting” results suggest.
Medics claim it is set to revolutionise treatment by offering men the first personalised therapy for the killer.
Olaparib was designed to tackle the faulty cancer gene affecting Angelina Jolie – known as a BRCA mutation.
The targeted treatment works by stopping tumour cells from repairing themselves after chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Experts said the drug is set to become the first precision medicine against prostate tumours – and predicted it could be available within two years.
It is already prescribed on the NHS for women with ovarian cancer fuelled by defective BRCA mutations, and officials are set to review it for breast cancer use.
Now research has found it works in four in five men with advanced prostate tumours who have the same faulty DNA.
The study, presented at the world’s biggest cancer conference, found olaparib halted the disease for an average of eight months in these patients.
And a third of men with a BRCA mutation saw their tumour’s frozen for more than a year.
Up to four thousand Brits a year with advanced prostate cancer could benefit from the pioneering drug.
We should see olaparib starting to reach the clinic for men with prostate cancer in the next couple of years
Speaking at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual conference [must keep] in Chicago, lead researcher Professor Johann de Bono of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: “Our study is exciting because it shows just how powerful genetic targeting and precision medicine can be.
“We were delighted to see such strong responses in men with very advanced cancers, where BRCA mutations and other faults in DNA repair genes were present within their tumours.
“The next phase of the trials is now under way and, if the results look as good as we hope, we should see olaparib starting to reach the clinic for men with prostate cancer in the next couple of years.”
The team also found more than half of men with mutations in a gene called PALB2 responded to the drug.
Experts said it opens up an exciting new era of personalised treatment in prostate cancer.
Men could soon be gene tested to see if faulty DNA is driving their disease, allowing doctors to pick the most suitable treatment.
The approach is already common in breast cancer.
Four other similar drugs are currently in trials and Prof de Bono said targeted therapies will one day replace hormone-blocking treatment as men’s first option, which causes loss of sex drive.
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Every year around 47,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer, causing 11,000 deaths.
Matthew Hobbs, deputy director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “This hugely exciting research shows that olaparib, originally developed to treat ovarian and breast cancer, could have a huge impact for men with advanced prostate cancer that have specific gene mutations.”
Paul Villanti, from men’s cancer charity the Movember Foundation, a men’s cancer charity, said: “It’s very exciting to see results which show how existing treatments such as olaparib could be repurposed to benefit men with the BRCA2 gene mutation. We hope this will give clinicians another weapon in their arsenal in the fight against advanced prostate cancer.”