A renowned Israeli researcher reports promising results of a new drug-treatment regimen, known as POLO, for treating metastatic pancreatic cancer in patients who carry mutated BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
Dr. Talia Golan, head of the Pancreatic Cancer Center at Sheba Medical Center in Israel, has been conducting ongoing research and clinical trials with biopharmaceutical companies Astrazeneca and MSD (Merck) to evaluate the safety and test the efficacy of the POLO regimen.
Results were published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on June 2, the same day Golan presented the study’s findings at the annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in Chicago.
Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer worldwide and the fourth leading cause of cancer death. Early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is difficult, as often there are no symptoms. As a result, around 80 percent of patients are diagnosed at the metastatic stage and fewer than 3% of patients at the metastatic stage survive more than five years after diagnosis.
Patients with a germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation make up a small subgroup of those with metastatic pancreatic cancer.
BRCA genes produce proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA and maintaining genetic stability in cells. When either of these genes is mutated, the cells become unstable and more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer. A significant number of Ashkenazi Jews (Eastern European origin) around the world are carriers of BRCA 1 and/or 2 mutations.
Lynparza (olaparib) is the first targeted treatment to block DNA damage response in cells and tumors deficient in homologous recombination repair, such as mutations in BRCA1 and/or BRCA2. POLO is a Phase III randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, multicenter study of olaparib.
“Of the 3,315 patients who underwent screening, 154 underwent randomization and were assigned to a trial intervention (92 to receive olaparib and 62 to receive placebo). The median progression-free survival was significantly longer in the olaparib group than in the placebo group (7.4 months vs. 3.8 months,” reported Golan and her coauthors from France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States.
Golan, a world-renowned pancreatic cancer specialist and researcher, concluded that “The POLO trial using the medicine Lynparza offers potential hope for those who suffer from metastatic pancreatic cancer and have a BRCA mutation.
“This treatment also exemplifies the advent of ‘precision medicine’ based on a specific genetic biomarker, BRCA 1 and 2,” she said.