Pioneering new drug discovered at University of Sheffield can help breast cancer patients live longer

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A pioneering new drug - discovered by scientists at the University of Sheffield - has been shown to extend the life of people living with incurable breast cancer.

Olaparib - also known as Lynparza - can give women living with BRCA-mutated advanced breast cancer significant extra time before their disease progresses, clinical trials have revealed.

The treatment, which is one of a new class of drugs known as PARP inhibitors, was discovered by Professor Thomas Helleday and his team of researchers at the University of Sheffield with funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research.

A clinical trial showed patients who received Olaparib had a 42 per cent lower chance of cancer progression than those who received chemotherapy.

The typical time to progression was seven months compared with 4.2 months for the chemotherapy group. It is estimated that around 1,500 women a year with the difficult-to-treat cancer could benefit from the drug.

Dr Kathryn Scott, interim chief executive of Yorkshire Cancer Research, said: "We are incredibly proud that a drug discovered in Sheffield with funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research has been shown to help some women with breast cancer live longer.

"It's fantastic to know that work generously supported by the people of Yorkshire is making a difference to patients throughout the world.

"We have been supporting innovative research at our region's universities and teaching hospitals for more than 90 years.

"The journey from lab to patient can be long, complicated and uncertain, so a successful outcome is a very exciting achievement."

Following the discovery in Sheffield, Olaparib was further developed by scientists at the Breast Cancer Now Research Centre at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

The drug works by blocking a DNA repair protein known as PARP, causing breast cancer cells to die. It has now been approved by the NHS.

In the study, led by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, tumours shrank in about 60 per cent of patients who received Olaparib, compared with 29 per cent of those who received chemotherapy.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said: "Olaparib could now become the first biologically targeted drug for a group of patients with incurable and aggressive breast cancer who currently have few treatment options."