A new genetic test developed at the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital helps identify ovarian cancer patients who benefit from PARP inhibitors, a type of targeted drug that could be effective against ovarian cancer, the University of Helsinki said in a statement.

In recent years, PARP inhibitors have achieved excellent results as a maintenance treatment after surgery and cytostatic therapy of newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patients.

Since the therapy with PARP inhibitors is associated with potentially serious side effects, it is important to be able to target it to the patients that benefit the most from it, the university added on Wednesday.

“The genetic test helps to identify patients who do not benefit from the drug, thus avoiding unnecessary treatment and the adverse effects associated with the drug,” Anniina Farkkila from Helsinki University Hospital was quoted as saying in the statement.

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The new genetic test has been developed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and statistics, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Roughly half of ovarian cancers have a deficiency in a specific DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) repair pathway. Cancer cells with this deficiency are unable to accurately repair breaks in the DNA double-strand, which causes the accumulation of DNA lesions,” doctoral researcher Fernando Perez-Villatoro from the University of Helsinki said.

The study results show that each cancer type is associated with different characteristics of the genetic lesions related to homologous recombination DNA-repair deficiency (HRD), which is a common driver of genomic instability. Therefore, developing a test optimised for ovarian cancer was important for advancing the precision of therapies for the cancer type, the University of Helsinki noted.

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The study results were published in the latest issue of npj Precision Oncology.