Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of female cancer deaths in the Western world. Significant progress has been made in the treatment of patients with ovarian cancer, however, the majority of patients experience disease recurrence and new therapies are being sought for such patients. Clinical investigation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors for ovarian cancer treatment has demonstrated promising activity in this disease. Here, we review the development of PARP inhibitors and their future role in the treatment of patients with ovarian cancer. Studies of olaparib, the first PARP inhibitor to be approved in Europe and the USA, in patients with recurrent ovarian cancer have demonstrated clinical efficacy with improvements in progression-free survival. In maintenance therapy of platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer there is supporting evidence of clinical benefit from exploratory endpoints that include time to first subsequent treatment and time to second subsequent treatment. Adverse events that should be monitored following treatment with PARP inhibitors include nausea, vomiting, fatigue and anaemia. Based on the evidence presented, patients who will receive the greatest benefit from PARP inhibition are those with platinum-sensitive relapsed ovarian cancer and a BRCA mutation.
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