Olaparib (Lynparza®)

Olaparib (Lynparza®) is a targeted therapy drug. It is used to treat some types of ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer.

Olaparib is given as capsules. You usually have it as an outpatient. Your cancer doctor or nurse will tell you how often you will have it.

Like all targeted therapy drugs, olaparib can cause side effects.

Some side effects can be serious, so it’s important to read the detailed information below. Your healthcare team can talk to you more about this and give you advice on how to manage any side effects.

Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you:

  • have a temperature
  • feel unwell
  • have severe side effects, including any we do not mention here.

Rarely, side effects may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor or nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.

If you need to seek medical attention for any reason other than cancer, always tell the healthcare staff that you are having this treatment.

How olaparib works

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.

How targeted therapies work

This animation shows how targeted therapies work and what effect they have on the body.

About our cancer information videos

How targeted therapies work

This animation shows how targeted therapies work and what effect they have on the body.

About our cancer information videos


When olaparib is given

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 one hour after eating. Do not eat for two 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.


About side effects

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.

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.

More information

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.


Common side effects of olaparib

Feeling sick

Your doctor will give you anti-sickness drugs to help prevent or control sickness. Take the drugs exactly as your nurse or pharmacist tells you. It is easier to prevent sickness than to treat it after it has started.

If you feel sick, take small sips of fluids and eat small amounts often. If you continue to feel sick, or if you vomit more than once in 24 hours, contact the hospital as soon as possible. They will give you advice and may change the anti-sickness drug to one that works better for you.

Diarrhoea

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.

Indigestion

Let your doctor or nurse know if you have indigestion. They can prescribe drugs to help reduce this.

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 bad 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 don’t 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.

Feeling tired

Feeling tired is a common side effect. Try to pace yourself and plan your day so you have time to rest. Gentle exercise, like short walks, can give you more energy. If you feel sleepy, do not drive or operate machinery.

Headaches

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)

Chemotherapy 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.


Less common side effects of olaparib

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
  • diarrhoea
  • 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:

  • nosebleeds
  • bleeding gums
  • tiny red or purple spots on the skin that may look like a rash.


Rare side effects of olaparib

Effects on the lungs

Rarely, this treatment can cause serious lung problems. Always tell your doctor if you develop: 

  • wheezing
  • a cough
  • a fever
  • breathlessness.

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.


Other information about olaparib

Other medicines

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).

Fertility

Doctors don’t yet know how this treatment may affect your fertility (the ability to become pregnant or father a child). If you are worried about this, talk to you doctor before treatment starts.

Contraception

Your doctor will advise you not to get pregnant or father a child while having this treatment and for some time afterwards. The drugs may harm the developing baby. It is important to use effective contraception during your treatment. Olaparib may make hormonal contraceptives less effective. Talk to your nurse or doctor for more advice.

Breastfeeding

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.