Health In Focus
  • Olaparib is a drug that is used to treat advanced ovarian cancers in women with a type of genetic mutation called BRCA mutation.
  • It improves survival and delays the use of chemotherapy in these women.
  • Its approval by the Scottish Medicines Consortium will make it available for Scottish women.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium has now approved the use of olaparib by women who have relapsed with ovarian cancer for the second time and are positive for BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation.

What is BRCA Gene Mutation?

The BRCA genes are a part of the genetic materials of all cells. They suppress the development of cancer. If the gene undergoes mutation, the patient is at a higher risk for breast cancer. It also increases the chances of developing cancer of the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal wall and abdominal organs. It is important to note however, that not all women with the mutation will develop cancer.
Olaparib Approved for BRCA Positive Relapsed Ovarian Cancer in Scotland

The mutated BRCA gene may be inherited from one of the parents or appear for the first time. Regular monitoring to detect any cancer early is necessary for women who have the mutation. Some women with the mutation opt for surgical removal of the breasts and ovaries with fallopian tubes before the cancer develops.

What is Olaparib?

Olaparib is a drug that is used to treat advanced ovarian cancers in women with the BRCA mutation. It is classified as a PARP inhibitor and brings about tumor cell death by inhibiting an enzyme that repairs damaged DNA. It is important to establish through specific tests that the patient has the BRCA mutation before the drug is used.

Olaparib is also being investigated for its possible role in the treatment of other types of cancers like brain and pancreatic cancer.

Does Olaparib Cause Side Effects?

Side effects associated with olaparib include suppression of the bone marrow resulting in reduced number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, nausea and vomiting, damage to the lung, and development of another cancer called Myelodysplastic syndrome/acute myeloid leukemia (MDS/AML).

What are the Implications of the Approval of Olaparib in Scotland?

With the approval from the Scottish Medicines Consortium, women from Scotland will now be able to reap the benefits of the drug as well. Olaparib can extend the lives of women with incurable ovarian cancer by an average of seven months. This period could be critical for women who are especially young with family and work commitments to get the time to sort out various personal matters. Olaparib also allows the patient to delay chemotherapy. Since it is available as an oral medication, the woman does not have to visit the hospital for every dose.

References :
  1. November 2016 decisions news release - (
  2. BRCA1 and BRCA2: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing - (
Source: Medindia

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