What is Lynparza® ? (olaparib)

Lynparza is a targeted treatment manufactured by AstraZeneca that is used in certain patients with metastatic breast cancer that is human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 negative (HER2-) and positive or suspected to be positive for a specific BRCA mutation, also known as gBRCA. Olaparib should be given to those who have previously received chemotherapy. For those with breast cancer that is hormone receptor positive (HR+), they should have previously received a hormone therapy, if hormone therapy was determined to be appropriate for the individual.1

What is the active ingredient in Lynparza?

Lynparza contains the active ingredient olaparib, an inhibitor of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) enzymes.1

How does olaparib work?

PARP enzymes are important for cellular functions like DNA repair. DNA is replicated any time a cell divides, and the rapid growth of cancer cells creates more opportunities for DNA damage to occur. Damage to the DNA of cells, including cancer cells, can lead to cell death. Normally, cells have multiple ways of repairing damage that may occur to the DNA. By blocking the PARP repair functionality, olaparib can limit the cancer cell’s ability to repair its DNA and can lead to the death of cancer cells.2,3

What are some of the possible side effects of olaparib?

Olaparib may also affect the ability of healthy cells to repair DNA and may cause side effects, some of which may be serious. Serious side effects may include1,2:

  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a type of blood cancer that develops from immature blood cells in the bone marrow and may cause symptoms such as low blood cell counts, weakness, and/or bruising easily.
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer that develops from myeloid cells, the cells that normally develop into red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells and may cause symptoms such as low blood cell counts, fatigue, weight loss, and/or fever.
  • Pneumonitis is an inflammation of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, which can lead to death. Symptoms of pneumonitis include difficulty breathing, fever, cough, or wheezing.

The most common side effects experienced by patients taking olaparib in clinical trials include1,2:

  • Anemia (lowered number of red blood cells)
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Neutropenia and/or leukopenia (lowered number of white blood cells)
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in the sense of taste
  • Headache
  • Decreased appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Low platelet counts (can increase the risk of bleeding and/or bruising)
  • Pain in the upper abdominal area

These are not all the possible side effects of olaparib. Patients should talk to their doctor about what to expect with treatment with olaparib.

Things to know about olaparib

Because olaparib can lower blood cell counts, patients taking olaparib should have blood tests regularly, including before treatment with olaparib begins, and throughout treatment.1,2

Before starting treatment with olaparib, patients should talk to their doctor about all their medications (prescription and over-the-counter), herbal supplements, and vitamins they are taking. Some medications or supplements may interfere with each other and may cause side effects.1,2

Before starting treatment with olaparib, patients should discuss with their doctor all their medical conditions, especially:

  • Lung or breathing problems
  • Kidney problems
  • If patients are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or become pregnant
  • If patients are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed1,2

Olaparib can cause harm to an unborn fetus and should not be used in pregnant women. Women who can become pregnant are advised to use effective contraception while taking olaparib and for at least six months after stopping treatment with olaparib. Men who are taking olaparib and have female partners who can become pregnant should use effective contraception while taking olaparib and for at least three months after stopping treatment with olaparib (patients should discuss appropriate birth control methods with their doctor).1,2

It is not known if olaparib passes through breastmilk. Women should not breastfeed while taking olaparib and for at least one month after treatment is finished.1,2

Patients taking olaparib should avoid consuming grapefruit, grapefruit juice, Seville oranges, and Seville orange juice as these products may increase the amount of olaparib in the blood, which can increase the potential for side effects.1,2

Receiving olaparib

Your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate olaparib dosing regimen and administration schedule for you. It is important to follow this schedule exactly as instructed, and not to stop taking olaparib or any accompanying medications on your own, unless you are instructed to do so by your healthcare provider.

Patients should take their medication as prescribed by their doctor. Patients should talk to their doctor if they have any questions, or if they have questions regarding their olaparib regimen.

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Written by: Editorial Team | Last reviewed: October 2020.