BRCA mutations may pinpoint response to Abbott's veliparib

BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are already used as biomarkers to point out those people at increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, but they could also pinpoint the women most likely to respond to Abbott's ($ABT) investigational cancer drug, veliparib.

Veliparib is a PARP inhibitor and is in clinical trials for a number of cancers, including a Phase II trial for breast cancer. PARP and BRCA proteins work together to help healthy cells avoid disease. But in cancer they can lead to resistance to cancer drugs and radiotherapy because they try to fix the damage caused by the cancer treatment. Adding in a PARP inhibitor could block the attempted repair and so reduce resistance, particularly in women with a BRCA mutation who are lacking the BRCA protein.

"BRCA mutations may be the Achilles' heel of some breast cancers," said Angel Rodriguez of the Methodist Cancer Center. "Cancer cells in BRCA carriers are dependent on PARP because they have no working BRCA protein. PARP inhibitors selectively destroy cancer cells in the carriers of BRCA mutations."

In a study funded by Abbott, researchers at 30 sites across the U.S. and Europe, including the Methodist Cancer Center, are looking to see if women with the BRCA mutation are any more likely to respond to treatment with the drug.

"While having a BRCA mutation is bad because it increases the risk of getting breast cancer, having a BRCA mutation in cancer could also be seen as a positive if we can exploit that weakness with this drug combination," said Jenny C. Chang of the Methodist Cancer Center.

- read the press release