Two experimental drugs show promise for treating tenacious and deadly breast and prostate cancers, according to new clinical trial results presented this week at the virtual American Society of Clinical Oncology 2021 meeting.

The experimental breast cancer pill Lynparza (olaparib) reduced the risk of disease recurrence or death by 42% after surgery when compared with placebo in certain patients who are genetically at high risk for aggressive disease, according to Fierce Pharma. Study participants had BRCA 1/2 mutations, which account for 5% of all breast cancer cases in the U.S., the news outlet reported.

Based on the results, the estimated likelihood of survival with no recurrence or new second cancers was 86% for patients who received the drug compared with 77% with those who received placebo, according to information on the ASCO meeting website. Investigators will continue to follow the effects on survival and long-term safety in these study participants.

The Food and Drug Administration has already approved the drug, made by AstraZeneca and Merck, as a first-line maintenance treatment for certain advanced ovarian cancers in combination with the chemotherapy drug bevacizumab.

Targeting advanced prostate cancer

Another new drug appears to be improving survival in men with advanced, hard-to-treat prostate cancer. This class of drug, called radiopharmaceuticals, works by tracking down and delivering radiation directly to tumor cells that have spread to diverse locations. They hold potential as a therapy for patients with inoperable and difficult to target cancers, according to the Associated Press.

“You can treat tumors that you cannot see. Anywhere the drug can go, the drug can reach tumor cells,” Frank Lin, M.D., told the AP. Lin, from National Cancer Institute, specializes in these medicines, and was not involved in the study.

“The success of this treatment highlights the importance of investigating alternatives to traditional types of cancer therapies,” said ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, M.D., in a statement. 

Novartis plans to submit the new clinical trial data on the drug, currently called Lu-PSMA-617, in a bid for federal approval.