FDA approves first drug for the ‘Jolie gene’

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Angelina Jolie famously revealed she'd had a double mastectomy after testing positive for BRCA 1

Angelina Jolie famously revealed she’d had a double mastectomy after testing positive for BRCA 1

US regulators have approved the first drug to treat women with advanced breast cancers caused by the same flawed gene that Angelina Jolie made famous. 

BRCA gene mutations are particularly susceptible to cancer, drastically increasing the risk a woman will develop breast tumors from 12 percent to 90 percent. 

While the gene does not increase the aggression of the disease, it provides a unique opportunity for oncologists to target a tumor using its own arsenal.

On Friday, after decades of research and development, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved AstraZeneca PLC’s Lynparza for patients with BRCA gene mutations who have undergone chemotherapy.

The gene has come to be known as the ‘Jolie gene’, after the actress Angelina Jolie, who revealed in a New York Times article that she’d had a double mastectomy after testing positive for BRCA 1. 

The medication to target the gene is the first in a fairly new class of medicines for ovarian cancer called PARP inhibitors to also win approval for treating breast cancer.

Experts across the world have hailed the move as a ‘breakthrough’, showing that treatment tailored to a patient’s genetics can be used to target cancer’s weaknesses.

‘We are delighted that the FDA has approved olaparib for advanced breast cancer in women who have inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations,’ said Professor Andrew Tutt, director of the Breast Cancer Now Research Cancer in the UK, which played a pivotal role in developing the drug. 

‘This is excellent news for women with this uncommon but important genetic form of breast cancer, many of whom took part in the clinical trials.’  

PARP inhibitors prevent cancer cells from fixing problems in their DNA. Blocking that can result in those cells dying or tumor growth slowing or even stopping.

AstraZeneca says Lynparza will cost $13,886 per month without insurance.

Possible side effects are less severe than for chemo, but can include serious ones such as blood and bone marrow cancers. 

The findings come amid a slew of research in recent months into the gene, which could make BRCA-related cancer more manageable, and treatment or preventative measures less invasive. 

On Thursday, research led by the University of Southampton concluded that BRCA-mutated breast cancer is no more dangerous or aggressive than any other form of the disease.

The findings could influence the way doctors treat the disease.

Until now most women with the gene mutation have undergone radical surgery to remove both breasts as soon as the cancer is spotted, as doctors believed the cancer was very aggressive.

That could now change, as the study has shown less invasive ‘breast conserving’ surgery which simply removes the tumour is just as safe.

The study of 2,700 women found women with a mutated BRCA gene had a 97 percent chance of surviving two years after diagnosis, compared to 96.6 percent for other breast cancer patients.





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