A NEW Glasgow-led study is set to investigate why some advanced ovarian cancers become resistant to a type of target therapy called PARP inhibitors.

The drugs work by preventing cancer cells from repairing and have been shown to slow the progression of the disease once it has spread to other parts of the body.

However, for a majority of patients PARP inhibitors will stop working over time - although the reasons for this are not always clear.

The PARP Inhibitor Resistance Study (PAIRS) is aiming to unravel the mechanisms behind this resistance by analysing samples from patients with PARP inhibitor resistant tumours.

They hope this will pave the way to new treatments to improve survival rates.

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Dr Patricia Roxburgh, an honorary consultant medical oncologist at Glasgow University who will be leading the study, said: “PARP inhibitors have been shown to slow the progression of advanced ovarian cancer, but they’re not suitable for everyone.

"Some people may experience more severe side effects than others and for many, the treatment will stop working over time.

"We want to understand the reasons behind this and will be studying biomarkers in the blood to identify resistance at its earliest stage.

"This work will support the optimal prescribing of PARP inhibitors by clinicians and the development of strategies to prevent treatment resistance as well as new treatments for PARP inhibitor resistant disease.”

Around 7,500 people are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the UK. In 2019, more than 1,350 women were told their tumour had spread to other parts of the body - classified as advanced disease.

When used after chemotherapy, PARP inhibitors can extend patients' survival.

They work by blocking a type of protein in our cells called poly-ADP ribose polymerase (PARP), which is essential for repairing cells.

Without access to this protein, cancer cells cannot repair themselves and die.

In one study, the PARP inhibitor Olaparib was shown to delay disease relapse in advanced ovarian cancer patients by three years.

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Amy Van Wyk was 36 when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2018.

She had major surgery within weeks to remove a ‘mango-sized mass’ from her ovary followed by chemotherapy.

Amy, from Surrey, continues to live with the condition, which is currently stable, and is passionate about the need for research. She said: “We are losing mothers, daughters, aunties, sisters to this terrible disease. It’ll give me more hope for the future that the cancer can be controlled and maintained for longer.”

Professor David Williams, chair of the research advisory committee at women's health charity, Wellbeing of Women, and based at The Institute for Women’s Health, University College London, said: "This study has exciting implications for clinical practice, paving the way for better management of advanced ovarian cancer through more personalised targeted care, and ultimately, the development of more treatments.

“Lessons learnt about PARP inhibitors to treat ovarian cancer, may also apply to the treatment of other cancers such as breast, prostate and pancreatic. This research could therefore have implications for many thousands of people.”

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The research is funded by Wellbeing of Women in partnership with Artios Pharma Limited (Artios).

Dr Gillian Langford, vice president of clinical development at Artios Pharma, said: “This study will not only further our understanding of ovarian cancer resistance but will ultimately help shape the future development of well-tolerated and durable cancer therapies that give women the best possible outcome.”