'Game-changing' drug for ovarian cancer approved on NHS

  • Video report by ITV News Social Affairs Editor Penny Marshall

A breakthrough drug proven to extend the lives of women with ovarian cancer has been approved on the NHS, to newly-diagnosed patients for the first time.

Lynparza (olaparib) is being made available through the Cancer Drugs Fund to help women with a genetic form of ovarian cancer - a disease which is notoriously deadly and difficult to treat.

The "game-changing" drug has been shown to extend lives by more than doubling the number of patients who could be offered a cure.

Patients will now get Lynparza much earlier on as a maintenance drug. Credit: PA

What is olaparib?

Olaparib is a type of drug called a PARP inhibitor and works by preventing the PARP protein in cancer cells from repairing damaged DNA, causing the cancer cells to die.

Clinical data shows that Lynparza reduces the risk of cancer getting worse or the patient dying by 70% compared with a placebo drug.


Of patients receiving the drug also had no progression of cancer after three years.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers for women and occurs when abnormal cells in the ovary begin to multiply out of control and form a tumour.

The drug can also benefit patients with advanced fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer.

Who can take the medicine olaparib?

The medicine is for those newly-diagnosed with ovarian cancer that has spread, who have the BRCA gene mutation.


Women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in England.

Inherited BRCA gene mutations are responsible for about one in five ovarian cancers.

Ovarian cancer is often hard to spot at an early stage. Credit: PA

Why is this medicine change deemed a breakthrough?

Until now, women with advanced cancer had to wait until after three rounds of chemotherapy to be prescribed olaparib.

But patients will now get Lynparza much earlier on as a maintenance drug if they have responded to first-line platinum-based chemotherapy.

Dr Susana Banerjee, consultant medical oncologist and from the Institute for Cancer Research, who co-led the clinical trial, said: "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.

Annwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said the NHS approval was a long overdue improvement.

She added: "For the first time women with a BRCA mutation will be able to access this game-changing new generation of ovarian cancer drugs from their first round of treatment."