Pancreatic cancer is caused by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the pancreas – a large gland that is a part of the digestive system. It can be localized (limited to the pancreas) or metastatic. Metastatic cancer is when the disease has spread to other organs in the body. Several causes have been associated with pancreatic cancer. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, most commonly linked with breast and ovarian cancers, are now gaining wider recognition for being associated with pancreatic cancer as well. People with these mutations face a 5 percent risk of getting pancreatic cancer in their lifetime.
Olaparib is an inhibitor of an enzyme called human poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase enzymes (PARP), and has been shown to reduce the growth of tumour cells. It is already approved as a maintenance therapy for some other types of cancers and is currently being developed as an orally administered treatment for gBRCA mutated metastatic pancreatic cancer in patients that have been treated with standard chemotherapies. If licensed olaparib will offer an additional maintenance treatment option for these patients whose disease has not progressed following treatment with first line chemotherapies.