PARP Inhibitors: Ovarian Cancer


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Almost 20,000 women developed ovarian cancer this year, and experts projected 12,000 women will die from it. For years, it’s been known as the silent killer because the symptoms are vague, and it’s often caught in late stages. Now, scientists are studying targeted therapies called PARP inhibitors on advanced ovarian cancers that were treated and have recurred.

Karen Ingalls and her husband Jim make the very best of every day. Fourteen years ago, this retired nurse got news that changed her life.

“My one and only symptom was a bloating stomach, which I just attributed to being 67, postmenopausal,” Ingalls tells Ivanhoe.

But after a scan…

“That showed a tumor about the size of a honey dew melon. When I woke up from surgery, he told me I had ovarian cancer and stage two C and was given a 50% chance to live five years,” Ingalls recalls.

Ingalls had chemo, but the cancer came back. She had chemo again, but when cancer came back the third time, doctors had something new.

Ingalls says, “Three months after my surgery, I started on a PARP inhibitor and was on that for four and a half years.”

PARP is a type of enzyme that helps repair DNA damage in cells. PARP inhibitors are drugs that work by preventing cancer cells from repairing, allowing the cancer to die. New research is evaluating PARP inhibitors in women with advanced ovarian cancer

UC San Francisco gynecologic oncologist, Dr. John Chan, MD, explains, “And in those patients, despite good surgery, adequate chemotherapy, 70, 80% of the time, these cancers still recur.”

(Read Full Interview)

While PARP inhibitors aren’t a cure for these women, researchers say for some, they extend the time between chemotherapy and recurrence. In some by months, and others by years.

“We’re seeing impacts in our advanced ovarian cancer patients that we’ve never seen before,” Dr. Chan adds.

Ingalls’ cancer is not growing right now, and she’s lived eight years beyond the initial prediction that she would have just five.

“So, I figured out five years equaled 3.6 plus million seconds, moments,” she explains.

She spent those moments – and now, more – with Jim, and letting other women know – as a speaker and author – that there are options for ovarian cancer patients.

“I truly believe that that’s one of the things that has kept her alive and kept her going and kept her young,” Jim says about his wife.

There are currently three FDA-approved PARP inhibitors that doctors can prescribe for women with advanced ovarian cancer. It’s important to note that researcher Dr. John Chan is also a paid consultant with GlaxoSmithKline, a company that manufactures one of the PARP inhibitors. Karen Ingalls writes about her ovarian cancer journey on her website,

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #5133

BACKGROUND: Ovarian cancer is the fifth cause of death among women today in the U.S. accounting for a higher mortality rate than any other female reproductive cancer. Twenty-thousand women suffered from ovarian cancer in the last year. The risk of a woman experiencing this cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 108. While it is most common in older women, only half women diagnosed are over sixty-five. The diagnosis rate has fallen in recent decades. Ovarian cancer is the growth of cells that configures in the ovaries. These cells replicate fast and knock down healthy body tissue. Treatment commonly involves chemotherapy and surgery.


DIAGNOSING: A variety of tests and procedures are used to diagnose ovarian cancer such as pelvic exams, imaging tests, blood tests, surgery, and genetic testing. In some cases, doctors cannot be sure of a diagnosis until after surgery, and an ovary is removed and tested. Once ovarian cancer has been confirmed, the results from the test are used to determine the stage. Stage one is restricted to the ovaries, while stage four has spread to other areas of the body.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Targeted therapy is a new type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to attack and locate cancer cells, while not harming normal cells. This kind of therapy targets the inner workings of cancer cells. This is what makes them different from normal cells.  One drug called Bevacizumab attaches to a protein and slows or stops cancer growth. It has been shown to slow the growth of ovarian cancers. It works best when given along with chemotherapy in shrinking tumors. It is given through a vein every two to three weeks. Another targeted therapy drug called Rucaparib is used for women as a maintenance treatment for advanced ovarian cancer that has comeback after treatment. Rucaparib is a PARP inhibitor. PARP enzymes usually hold one pathway to fix damaged DNA in cells. Blocking a PARP pathway with drugs like these makes it very difficult for tumor cells to fix damaged DNA, making the cells die. Drugs like these have be shown to slow growth of advanced ovarian cancers.



Edythe Elkinson

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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Dr. John Chan, a division director in GYN Oncology

Read the entire Q&A