New drug approved to fight ovarian cancer (Day 317)

Now that we are in the home stretch of my presidency, I thought I’d look a little closer to home for examples of chemical engineering success. IChemE’s Corporate Partners are a great place to start.

AstraZeneca, a multinational pharmaceutical company employing around 57,000 people worldwide, were awarded Silver Corporate Partner status in 2011.

woman with cancerThey are one of only a handful of companies involved in every aspect of pharmaceutical production from start to finish; from research to supply. So next time you pick up a prescription, there’s a good chance that AstraZeneca might have been involved.

One of their latest drugs to be approved is Lynparza, which is prescribed to patients who have been diagnosed with a mutated form of ovarian cancer.

Over 7,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year. It’s the fifth most common cancer among women, mainly affecting the over 50’s – although it can affect women of any age.

Unfortunately, one of the main problems with ovarian cancer is it’s often diagnosed late, resulting in a poor prognosis. Experts have reported that under half of women (46 per cent) diagnosed will live for at least five years.

This is where AstraZeneca’s new product can help.

Lynparza has recently been approved in the EU and US to be administered in conjunction with platinum-based chemotherapy for the treatment of advanced BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer.

The active ingredient in Lynparza, Olaparib, is a poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor that exploits tumour DNA repair pathway deficiencies to preferentially kill cancer cells.

Tests have shown that, on average, women who were treated with Lynparza lived significantly longer without the disease deteriorating than those patients who were treated with a placebo drug.

Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, Harpal Kumar, hailed it a success: “This drug offers new hope to women with advanced ovarian cancer by targeting weaknesses cancer cells have in repairing damaged DNA.

“With clinical trials showing this treatment has potential in other types of cancer, we hope there will be more good news in the future.”

Professor Steve Jackson from the Department of Biochemistry, School of the Biological Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK, whose research established the basis for the use of olaparib, hails the approval of Lynparza as a success.

You can see him discussing the use of PARP blocking at the 2010 NCRI Cancer Conference here:

Steve said: “It’s wonderful to learn that olaparib is set to become a licensed drug and soon available to advanced ovarian cancer sufferers.

“By collaborating with a partner such as AstraZeneca, basic academic research, such as that carried out by my research team at the University of Cambridge, can lead to major medical developments.”

This project highlights a significant milestone in the advancement of targeted medicines. What an achievement for both Steve and AstraZeneca – a company where chemical engineering definitely matters.

Congratulations to all those involved!


If you are working in targeted drug development, why not get in touch and share your research.

One thought on “New drug approved to fight ovarian cancer (Day 317)

  1. Not only have AZ got the product to market they will have spent considerable time and effort making sure that they can produce a high quality product.

    Chemical engineers are involved all along the pathway from discovery to manufacturing the final product.

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