Olaparib (Lynparza®) is a targeted (biological) therapy. It is used to treat some types of ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer.
Olaparib (Lynparza®) is a type of targeted therapy drug called a PARP inhibitor. PARPs are proteins that help damaged cells repair themselves.
Olaparib blocks (inhibits) how PARP proteins work in cancer cells that have a genetic mutation called BRCA. Without PARP proteins, these cancer cells become too damaged to survive and they die.
Olaparib is used to treat some types of ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer that have come back after other treatments. It may be given if a blood test or a test of the tumour shows that you have a genetic mutation called BRCA1 or BRCA2.
You have chemotherapy before you start taking olaparib. The chemotherapy gets rid of as much of the cancer as possible. You then take olaparib to stop the cancer growing again. Your doctor or nurse will explain how long you can keep taking olaparib.
We have more information about ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer and primary peritoneal cancer.
Taking olaparib capsules
You take olaparib as capsules twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Swallow the capsules whole with a glass of water. Do not chew, dissolve or open them.
Take them at least 1 hour after eating. Do not eat for 2 hours after taking the capsules.
Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while you are having olaparib. This can change how effective the drug is.
Always take olaparib exactly as your doctor, nurse or pharmacist has explained. This is important to make sure it works as well as possible for you.
There are some important things to remember when taking your capsules:
- If you forget to take your capsules, do not take a double dose. Take your next dose at the usual time and let your doctor or nurse know.
- Keep capsules in the original package and at room temperature, away from heat and direct sunlight.
- Keep them safe and out of the sight and reach of children.
- Get a new prescription before you run out of capsules and make sure you have enough for holidays.
- Return any unused capsules to the pharmacist if your treatment is stopped.
- If you are sick just after taking the capsules, contact the hospital. You may need to take another dose.
We explain the most common side effects of this treatment here. We also include some less common side effects.
You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are unlikely to get all of them. If you are also having treatment with other cancer drugs, you may have some side effects that we haven’t listed here. Always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any side effects you have.
Your doctor can give you drugs to help control some side effects. It is important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains. This means they will be more likely to work for you. Your nurse will give you advice about managing your side effects. After your treatment is over, most side effects start to improve.
Serious and life-threatening side effects
Some cancer treatments can cause severe side effects. Rarely, these may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor or nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.
Rarely, capecitabine can cause severe side effects in people who have low levels of an enzyme called DPD. This is called having a DPD deficiency. You will not know before you start treatment whether you have a DPD deficiency as there are no symptoms. There is a test available but it only tests for the more common types of DPD deficiency. This means that the test will detect most cases of DPD deficiency but not all cases. The test is not widely available on the NHS. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about having a DPD deficiency.
Contact the hospital
Your nurse will give you telephone numbers for the hospital. If you feel unwell or need advice, you can call them at any time of the day or night.
Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe.
We cannot list every side effect for this treatment. There are some rare side effects that are not listed. You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information.
Your doctor will prescribe anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs to help prevent or control sickness. Take the drugs exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains to you. It’s easier to prevent sickness than to treat it after it has started.
If you still feel sick or are vomiting, contact the hospital as soon as possible. They can give you advice and change the anti-sickness drug to one that works better for you.
If you have diarrhoea, contact the hospital for advice. Try to drink at least 2 litres (3½ pints) of fluids every day. It can help to avoid alcohol, caffeine, milk products, high-fat foods and high-fibre foods.
Changes to your taste
You may get a bitter or metal taste in your mouth. Sucking sugar-free sweets may help with this. Some foods may taste different or have no taste. Try different foods to find out what tastes best to you. Taste changes usually get better after treatment finishes. Your nurse can give you more advice.
Loss of appetite
This treatment can affect your appetite. Do not worry if you do not eat much for a day or two. But if your appetite does not come back after a few days, tell your nurse or dietitian. They will give you advice. They may give you food or drink supplements.
This treatment may cause headaches. If this happens, tell your doctor or nurse. They can give you painkillers.
Anaemia (low number of red blood cells)
This treatment can reduce the number of red blood cells in your blood. These cells carry oxygen around the body.
If the number of red blood cells is low, you may be tired and breathless. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel like this.
If you are very anaemic, you may need a drip to give you extra red blood cells. This is called a blood transfusion.
Risk of infection
This treatment can reduce the number of white blood cells in your blood. These cells fight infection. If the number of white blood cells is low, you are more likely to get an infection. A low white blood cell count is called neutropenia.
If you have an infection, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour contact number you have if:
- your temperature goes over 37.5°C (99.5°F)
- you suddenly feel unwell, even with a normal temperature
- you have symptoms of an infection.
Symptoms of an infection include:
- feeling shaky
- a sore throat
- a cough
- needing to pass urine a lot.
It is important to follow any specific advice your cancer treatment team gives you.
The number of white blood cells will usually return to normal before your next treatment. You will have a blood test before having more treatment. If your white blood cell count is low, your doctor may delay your treatment for a short time.
Bruising and bleeding
This treatment can reduce the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any bruising or bleeding that you can’t explain. This includes:
- bleeding gums
- tiny red or purple spots on the skin that may look like a rash.
Effects on the lungs
Rarely, this treatment can cause serious lung problems. Always tell your doctor if you develop:
- a cough
- a fever
You should also let them know if any existing breathing problems get worse. If necessary, they can arrange for you to have tests to check your lung health.
Some medicines can affect this treatment or be harmful when you are having it. This includes medicines you can buy in a shop or chemist. Tell your cancer doctor about any medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal drugs and complementary therapies.
Talk to your doctor before having any vaccinations or medicines that might weaken the immune system (immuno-suppressants.
Women are advised not to breastfeed while having this treatment and for some time afterwards. This is because the drugs could be passed to the baby through breast milk.
Medical and dental treatment
If you need medical treatment for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are having cancer treatment. Give them the contact details for your cancer doctor so they can ask for advice.
If you think you need dental treatment, talk to your cancer doctor or nurse. Always tell your dentist you are having this treatment.