The therapeutic implications of DNA damage in cancer therapy have long been appreciated and form the basis of many successful cytotoxic chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment strategies. A novel class of DNA repair defect targeted therapeutics that inhibit poly (ADP-Ribose) polymerase (PARP) are being rapidly developed in breast cancer based on exciting preliminary clinical activity as single agents in BRCA mutation-associated breast cancer and in combination with chemotherapy in triple-negative breast cancer. Though there is widespread enthusiasm to move these drugs forward quickly, much remains to be understood about the optimal use of the novel agents. Here we review the clinical development of PARP inhibitors in breast cancer and highlight clinical trials in progress. We also provide commentary on a series of outstanding questions in the field, the answers to which will be critical for the successful development of PARP inhibitor-based strategies in early- and late-stage breast cancer.
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