The standard of care for most cancers is chemotherapy. But chemo brings side effects that patients want to avoid and drug developers have been looking for different approaches to the disease. Clovis Oncology has made strong headway with an approach that blocks the ability of cancer cells to repair themselves. A Clovis drug developed for ovarian cancer is now one step closer to reaching patients. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the drug developed by the Boulder, Colorado-based company.
The FDA wasn’t expected to announce a decision on the Clovis drug, called Rubraca, until February. The regulator sped up the review under an accelerated process intended for drugs that treat serious or life-threatening conditions, CNBC explained. The Clovis drug was developed to treat women who have an advanced form of ovarian cancer who have already been received two or more chemotherapies. But the drug is not meant for everyone. Only women who express a particular gene mutation respond to the drug. This gene mutation leads to the repair of cancer cells.
Rubraca is part of an emerging group of drugs that work with enzymes called poly ADP-polymerases, or PARP for short. PARPs are enzymes that help cancer repair damage to their DNA, Xconomy explained. The Clovis drug, and others like it, are called “PARP blockers.” They can work with chemotherapy because blocking PARP enzymes keeps cancer cells from repairing themselves after chemo has done its work.
The National Cancer Institute calculates that more than 22,000 women will have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016, leading to the death of about 14,000 of them. Because the Rubraca works only with a specific gene mutation, the Clovis drug could work in only between 15 and 20 percent of ovarian cancer patients. Those patients are identified using a companion diagnostic made by Foundation Medicine, Xconomy reported.
Now that Clovis has FDA approval in ovarian cancer, there’s a possibility that the company tries its PARP blocking approach in other cancers. The company is considering testing the drug in prostate, breast, and gastroesophogeal cancers, according to CNBC.
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