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Finer Focus

PARP inhibitors were all but written off a few years ago, but now are back with a focus on BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation-related cancers, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, BioMarin, Clovis Oncology, and Tesaro are beginning to see data indicating that their drugs may help shrink tumors. For example in one study of ovarian cancer, adding AstraZeneca's olaparib to chemotherapy regimens appeared to allow patients with BRCA mutations to live a median 11.2 months without their cancers getting worse — 6.9 months longer than those who received a placebo, according to the Journal.

Citigroup estimates that the per-month cost of such drugs would be between $12,500 and $15,000. "If we can specifically target the patient, there's going to be a better benefit and people are willing to pay more," Mary Lynne Hedley, the president and CSO of Tesaro, tells the Journal.

The WSJ adds that a "string of disappointments nearly sank development of the treatments" as, in 2011, a late-stage study of Sanofi's iniparib failed and AstraZeneca said that it wouldn't move olaparib along — then for a broader ovarian cancer population — because its benefit was not enough to garner approval.

Further study, though, revived interest in the drugs, as they appeared to have an effect in patients with BRCA mutations.