News Release: Emory Healthcare, Research, Winship Cancer Institute

Sep. 10,  2009

Clinical Trial of Anti-Cancer Drug Open to Patients with BRCA1/2 Mutations

Doctors at Winship Cancer Institute are testing an anti-cancer drug that exploits the vulnerabilities of particularly hard-to-treat tumors.

Suresh Ramalingam, MD, associate professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and chief of thoracic oncology at the Emory Winship Cancer Institute, is the national chair of the study. Medical centers in California and Pennsylvania also are participating.

The study is open to patients with mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which have been shown to increase the risk of breast, ovarian and several other forms of cancer. To enroll, patients must carry this gene and meet other inclusion criteria.  Patients can have breast, pancreas, colon, ovarian or any other type of cancer - as long as they have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, they are eligible.

The drug under study, ABT-888 (Veliparib), inhibits PARP or poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, an enzyme that helps cells respond to DNA damage. ABT-888 is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories. The study tests the combination of ABT-888 with the commonly used drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel.

Scientists believe combining a PARP inhibitor with conventional anti-cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation should kill cancer cells more effectively by blocking their ability to repair DNA damage. The proteins encoded by the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are also involved in responding to DNA damage, and BRCA1/2 mutations may make tumors especially vulnerable to PARP inhibition.

Although these tumors are more likely to be sensitive to ABT-888, the safety of this drug combination needs to be tested. Preliminary studies have shown promise, and this study is designed to determine the highest dose of the drug that does not cause unacceptable side effects. If it proves safe and increases tumor shrinkage, then larger trials examining survival rates will be undertaken.

The study is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, which recently highlighted this study as one of several supported by the ACTNOW program (Accelerating Clinical Trials of Novel Oncologic Pathways).

More information is available online by visiting or by calling the Emory Winship Cancer Institute at 404-778-1900 - ask for information on ABT-888.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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