Several genomic studies have identified DNA repair gene defects in prostate cancer in the last 5 years. The mechanisms by which these DNA repair defects promote carcinogenesis and tumor progression in the prostate have not been fully elucidated, but their presence in at least 20–25% of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancers (CRPCs) provides an opportunity for a therapeutic strategy that turns a tumor strength into its weakness and may lead to arguably the first molecularly stratified treatment for this disease.
Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors have been developed as an anticancer synthetic lethal therapeutic strategy for tumors with impaired homologous recombination DNA repair, based on a synthetic lethal effect. Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors have shown to induce significant tumor responses in cancer patients carrying germline BRCA1/2 mutations. Recent evidence from a phase II clinical trial supports further testing of PARP inhibitors for the treatment of metastatic CRPC with either germline or somatic defects in BRCA2, ATM, PALB2, and other DNA repair genes.
We review the current evidence of how this strategy is relevant for the treatment of advanced prostate cancers, the available data from trials with PARP inhibitors in metastatic CRPC, and the ongoing studies analyzing combinations of these drugs with other therapies.