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New Drug Combination Shows Promise in Treating Ovarian Cancer

June 05, 2018

Dineo Khabele, MD, Director, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, The University of Kansas Cancer CenterResearchers at The University of Kansas Cancer Center have discovered a therapy combination that may be helpful in the treatment of certain types of ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. According to the American Cancer Society, about 22,240 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.

In a preclinical study led by Dineo Khabele, MD, director of KU Cancer Center’s gynecologic oncology division, researchers studied PARP inhibitors, a type of targeted cancer therapy recently approved by the Food & Drug Administration. PARP is a type of enzyme involved in several cell functions, including the repair of DNA damage. Suppressing PARP helps keep cancer cells from repairing their damaged DNA, causing cell death.

“For more than 14 years, my research has focused on developing new drug combinations to treat ovarian cancer,” Dr. Khabele says. “PARP inhibitors have shown great promise in cancer treatment, but certain types of ovarian cancers have poorer clinical outcomes and are resistant to this type of therapy.”

To help improve PARP inhibitors efficacy in treating ovarian cancer, Dr. Khabele and her team combined the therapy with another new class of drugs, BET (bromodomain and extra-terminal) inhibitors. BET inhibitors have the ability to downregulate DNA repair genes in ovarian cancer cells, making them more prone to DNA damage and cell death. The team found that, when combined, PARP inhibitors and BET inhibitors work together to inhibit tumor growth, reduce cancer gene expression and proliferation and increase the incidence of cell death. Furthermore, the drug combination was well-tolerated and non-toxic in animal studies.

“These findings are very exciting and help to lay important groundwork for the future development of PARP inhibitors and BET inhibitors in clinical trials,” Dr. Khabele says.

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