06 Apr 2023

Landmark moment: first gene-targeting treatment for prostate cancer on NHS, opens door to more targeted therapies in future

The drug, olaparib, could benefit hundreds of men each year and pave the way for further targeted treatments for men with the disease. 

Olaparib, a drug that targets cancers with a particular genetic mutation, can now be given to eligible men with prostate cancer across the UK. 

Hundreds of men each year could now benefit from the drug, which has been shown to help men live several months longer on average.  

We hope this will be the first step towards more men benefiting from these kinds of targeted treatments – including at earlier stages of the disease, when they have the potential to be even more effective. 

We’ll be working with the NHS to ensure both olaparib and the testing required are rolled out widely as soon as possible. 

Expanding access across the UK

Originally developed and approved to treat women with breast or ovarian cancer, olaparib targets cancer cells that have faulty DNA repair systems caused by a mutation in their BRCA genes.  

Thanks in part to research we funded, the treatment was later found to be effective in prostate cancer, for men whose cancer also has these faulty repair mechanisms.  

Since then, we have worked closely with the NICE, the Scottish Medicines Consortium and the pharmaceutical company who developed olaparib to secure the drug’s approval for men across the NHS.  

Today, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) announced that the NHS should fund the treatment for men whose advanced prostate cancer has stopped responding to next-generation hormone therapies and has a BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation. 

This brings the rest of the UK in line with Scotland, which made the drug available on the NHS in 2021. 

The roll-out marks a massive step forward in the treatment of the disease and means that, for the first time, men across the UK can receive treatment based on the genetic make-up of their cancer.

Moving away from one-size-fits-all treatment

Chiara De Biase, Director of Support & Influencing at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “Not only is this fantastic news for men with advanced prostate cancer, but it is also a landmark moment for prostate cancer treatment. 

 “This is the first targeted treatment of its kind to be approved for the disease and it finally moves us away from the old ‘one size fits all’ approach to prostate cancer treatment.  

“We’re proud of the role we played in developing this exciting drug, which stands to extend the lives of hundreds of men each year.” 

New treatments like olaparib can ‘help men like me’

Photo of Kevin Webber doing the Football March. His arms are up in celebration.

Kevin Webber was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2014. At the time he was told he had he had just two years to live, but thanks in part to newer treatments like abiraterone, he has far exceeded his prognosis.  

Since then, he has inspired thousands of others to ‘make the most of it’ and raised more than £1m for the charity - and unprecedented awareness - through a series of massive endurance events, including the epic Marathon Des Sables four times. 

Kevin said: “Being told you have advanced cancer is incredibly tough, because it means your cancer can’t be cured. 

“What’s different now is that there are so many more treatments for men like me than there ever used to be, which can help us live longer than ever and keep doing the things we love. Because of that, I’ve been given so much extra time to spend with my family and friends, to take part in these incredible challenges and to truly make the most of every single day. 

“That’s why it’s fantastic to see new treatments like olaparib being approved, and we need to keep them coming to help men like me and their families who are going through such tough times.” 

How will I know if I can be helped by olaparib?

At the moment it is only available when other treatments have stopped working. At this stage, your clinician will offer genetic testing on some of the tissue that was taken when you were biopsied, and if this comes back showing a BRCA mutation then you should be offered olaparib.

Advances like these, based on research and campaining, are only possible thanks to the ongoing support of people like you.  

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202010 George Seed Researcher

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Over the last 25 years, our research, funded by supporters like you, has changed the lives of men with prostate cancer. From transforming the way prostate cancer is diagnosed to developing the first precision medicine for advanced prostate cancer, we've made this happen together.
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