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Hundreds of treatments coming to clinical trials


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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- Hundreds of novel anti-cancer agents have entered clinical trials in the first six months of this year, according to a report released Wednesday by a firm that tracks drug development.

Katie Siafaca, spokeswoman for New Medicine, which released the report, said there has been a dramatic rise in the number of drugs being developed for treating cancer in recent years.

'It`s a tremendous increase in the last five or six years,' Siafaca told United Press International, noting there are 100 compounds in phase 1 clinical development alone. 'Everything has increased dramatically.'

The compounds in development are listed in New Medicine`s Oncology KnowledgeBASE, which the firm describes as an 'inclusive analysis of all aspects of oncology drug development globally.' In addition to the compounds in clinical trials, New Medicine`s database contains hundreds of drugs in preclinical development.

One reason for the increase in cancer drug development is they now have blockbuster potential, Siafaca said. 'This was not the case 10 years ago, so it has shifted the attention away from other diseases to cancer,' she said.

'They did not go after cancer in the old days because it didn`t seem like a place where you could make a lot of money,' she said.

But that has changed because cancer drugs can now be very expensive, with some costing tens of thousands of dollars per patient, and many patients will receive multiple drugs during the course of their disease.

The use of second- and third-line therapies 'has made chemotherapy a very big business because one patient may have three or four different treatments before they expire,' Siafaca said.

In addition, a lower rate of efficacy and a higher rate of side effects can often be acceptable in this arena, particularly in advanced cancer patients with no other options. 'A lot of drugs all they do is extend life by several months but you can still make money off it,' she said.

USA Today reported this week that according to a June report from Express Scripts the cost of cancer drugs increased approximately 16 percent last year. The cost of other prescription medications rose only three percent.

The average cost of a monthly prescription for a cancer drug runs about $1,600, the Express Scripts report stated. The report did not include drugs that are administered at a physician`s office.

Among the drugs in phase 3 development are several cancer vaccines. This includes Cell Genesys` GVAX, which is being developed for treating prostate cancer. Dendreon`s Provange is also in phase 3 for prostate cancer.

Cell Therapeutics` Xyotax is in phase 3 for many different tumor types and Favrille`s FavId vaccine is being developed for non-Hodgkin`s lymphoma.

Eli Lilly`s drug enzastaurin is in phase 3 trials for brain cancer and non-Hodgkin`s lymphoma.

Other compounds in the phase 3 pipeline include GlaxoSmithKline`s Tykerb, which is being developed for many different indications, including breast and kidney cancer.

Introgen`s advexin is in trials for head and neck cancer.

Siafaca said there appears to be a trend towards trials involving the combination of approved drugs. Examples of this include Sanofi Aventis` Taxotere, which is in trials in combination with many different agents. Genentech is looking at combinations of its drug Avastin and several other drugs for a variety of cancer types, she said.

The Pharmaceutical and Research Manufacturers of America said a survey it conducted last year found that 178 companies were developing 399 compounds for the treatment of cancer.

This included 62 for lung cancer, 50 for prostate cancer, 49 for breast cancer and 35 for colon cancer. The companies also had several compounds in development for various other cancers, including brain, skin, ovarian and pancreatic cancer.

Those furthest along for lung cancer included Imclone`s IMC-BEC2, Alfacell`s Onconase, and Neovastat, which was being developed by the National Cancer Institute.

Eli Lilly`s arzoxifene, in phase 3, is being tested to prevent breast cancer and to treat osteoporosis.

Other breast cancer compounds in phase 3 trials included Genta`s Genasense, Bristol-Myers Squibb`s ixabepilone and GlaxoSmithKline`s lapatinib.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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