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Olarpip could provide effective treatment for brain tumours, charity reveals

An ovarian cancer drug could be an effective treatment for a difficult-to-treat type of brain tumour, research by a cancer charity has revealed.

Olaparib could leak through the blood brain barrier to treat glioblastoma – a condition which many other drugs have failed to treat – according to a study presented at the National Cancer Research Institute’s (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool.

In the Cancer Research UK-funded OPARTIC trial, 48 patients with glioblastoma that had returned after initial treatment were recruited. The majority the patients were given olaparib in combination with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.

After looking at tumour samples, the researchers found that olaparib penetrates the core of the tumour as well as the surrounding areas that contain smaller numbers of cancerous cells.

Professor Anthony Chalmers, lead researcher and chair of clinical oncology at the University of Glasgow, said: “Brain tumours are stubbornly difficult to treat and one of the main reasons for this is the blood brain barrier, a natural filter that blocks the passage of drugs.

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“But these results suggest that olaparib is able to leak through because this barrier is disrupted in glioblastoma. By showing that this drug reaches brain tumours, we are in a much stronger position to use it to make current treatments more effective.”

Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK’s director of drug development, said: “While overall survival for cancer is improving, survival for brain tumours is still very low and the blood brain barrier is a significant pharmacological obstacle.

“Experimental trials like this, which test new ways to reach these hard to treat tumours, are crucially important if we are to see more patients survive their cancer.”

Professor Susan Short, member of NCRI’s radiotherapy research working group, said: “We’re just beginning to realise the full potential of PARP inhibitors to tackle many different types of cancer, so it’s exciting to see that olaparib could potentially be used to treat glioblastoma in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“These results are a huge step forwards in developing better treatments for patients with brain tumours, which claim too many lives every year.”