The use of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors provided proof-of-concept for a synthetic lethal anti-cancer strategy as a result of their efficacy and favourable toxicity profile in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers. Efforts are underway to identify a broader group of patients with genomic susceptibility that may benefit from these agents. In an endeavour to enhance anti-tumour effects, PARP inhibitors have been combined with traditional cytotoxic therapy and radiotherapy; however, optimization of dosing schedules for these combination regimens remains key to maximizing benefit whilst mitigating the potential for increased toxicity. With ongoing clinical experience of PARP inhibition, mechanisms of resistance to these therapies are being elucidated and specific challenges to long-term administration of these drugs will need to be addressed. Development of robust predictive biomarkers of response for optimal patient selection and rational combination strategies must be pursued if the full potential of these agents is to be realized.