Cancer drug development companies // Drug Repurposing

Cancer drug development companies

width="230"CANCER is not one disease. It is many. Yet oncologists have long used the same blunt weapons to fight different types of cancer: cut the tumour out, zap it with radiation or blast it with chemotherapy that kills good cells as well as bad ones.

New cancer drugs are changing this. Scientists are now attacking specific mutations that drive specific forms of cancer. A breakthrough came more than a decade ago when Genentech, a Californian biotech firm, launched a drug that attacks breast-cancer cells with too much of a certain protein, HER2. In 2001 Novartis, a Swiss drugmaker, won approval for Gleevec, which treats chronic myeloid leukaemia by attacking another abnormal protein. Other drugs take different tacks. Avastin, introduced in America in 2004 by Genentech, starves tumours by striking the blood vessels that feed them. (Roche, another Swiss drug giant, bought Genentech and its busy cancer pipeline in 2009.)

These new drugs sell well. Last year Gleevec grossed $4.3 billion. Roche's Herceptin (the HER2 drug) and Avastin did even better: $6 billion and $7.4 billion respectively. Cancer drugs could rescue big drugmakers from a tricky situation: more than $50 billion-worth of wares will lose patent protection in the next three years.

This month Pfizer, an American company, announced that America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would speed up its review of a cancer drug called crizotinib. Roche submitted an FDA application for a new medicine, vemurafenib. The industry is pouring money into clinical trials for cancer drugs (see chart).

This is part of a shift in how big drug firms do business. For years they have relied on blockbusters that treat many people. Now they are investing in more personalised medicine: biotech drugs that treat small groups of patients more effectively.

Last year the FDA approved Provenge, developed by Dendreon of Seattle to train the immune system to fight prostate cancer. In March the FDA approved Yervoy, Bristol-Myers Squibb's drug to treat melanoma. And there are promising drugs in the pipeline. Pfizer's crizotinib attacks a protein encoded by a gene found in fewer than 5% of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. Roche's vemurafenib attacks advanced melanoma by blocking the mutated form of a gene, B-RAF. Both Pfizer and Roche are developing tests to help doctors identify suitable patients for their drugs.

The snag, from society's point of view, is that all these drugs are horribly expensive. Last year biotech drugs accounted for 70% of the increase in pharmaceutical costs in America, according to Medco, a drug-plan manager. This trend will continue as drug firms develop new ways to treat, for example, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Cancer plays a huge role in raising costs. America's National Institutes of Health predict that spending on all cancer treatment will rise from $125 billion last year to at least $158 billion in 2020. If drugs become pricier, as seems likely, that bill could rise to $207 billion.

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First, about dogs and cancer

by Hydrogyrophage

It turns out that there are a handful of therapeutic cancer vaccines for dogs either available or under development. Why in dogs? Because it's far easier and cheaper to move from clinical trials to the market. So it can be done entirely in a regular research lab at a university, rather than being passed among several drug development companies to share the burden of costly clinical trials for human treatments. Once you've got a good vaccine method worked out in dogs, it's cheaper to translate that research into humans than to start from scratch.

Yes, the pharma companies get rich, but

by achilles13

If it wasn't for all the money they made, they couldn't afford the billions of dollars of research and development they do every year to create better medications. Some day these same drug companies you disparage will come up with a cure for cancer and other illnesses that have plagued humans for hundreds of years.
In the 1950s, I would have been hospitalized or in jail for my condition. But, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, I am able to lead a normal, stable and healthy life. I have no complaints. It all depends on which side of the coin you fall on.
I hear what you are saying though


by depression_blues

I was just speaking with my pdoc a few weeks ago regarding John Falk. Solaris Entertainment is developing a film about him:
And yes, your comments about individual responses to medication/treatment is fascinating. Are you familiar with the field of Pharmacogenomics, which is the development of personalized medicine? Since the genome map was identified, pharmaceutical companies are now factoring in the genetic makeup of patients in their drug development. 30% of women, for example, who suffer from ovarian cancer do not respond to chemotherapy

Geez, i'm so embarrassed...

by DrDrew

...i thought i could hoodwink you but you're obviously too intelligent. i've been exposed...gasp!
are you kidding me?! what are you talking about?
i'm not apologizing for the pharmaceutical industry. what game are you talking about that is "fixed"? so can you actually sit there and say that there have been no advances in the past 20 years on cancer research and extending lives? since you're such a braniac, i'm sure you can spout off stats that say that people die sooner today of cancer (in general) than 10, 20, 30 years ago, right?
i'm not talking about the politics behind drug development, cancer research, etc

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