Monday, January 15, 2007

Speaking of Gleevec....

Long term study results from early targeted therapies are starting to come in. In CML, some 95 percent have survived the cancer after five years due to treatment with Gleevec. (I don't have the pre-Gleevec survival rates, but will try to track them down.)

Also: "Even high-risk patients have close to a 70 percent chance of getting to what we call a complete cytogenetic response, which is an optimal response to the drug. That is still six or seven times better than they ever could have hoped for with the previous standard therapy. So, even for high-risk patients, the likelihood of responding is quite high."

Gleevec is being followed by nilotinib (NVS) and dasatanib (BMS), and will hopefully improve these numbers. What I can't make sense of, though, is the choice of this disease (and these drug targets) as the main focus of a number of other biotech companies.

I understand and appreciate the scientific merit, and there is perhaps a business boost thru the validation that the preceeding therapies provide, but just off the top of my head, I can name several entrants:

BMS (dasatanib)
Breakthrough Therapeutics
Novartis (Nilotinib)
Structural Genomics
even a DoD funded team at VCU
(plus, I feel like I'm blanking on one or two more)

I really hope this effort results in the eradication of the disease, but surely, even if that is accomplished, 3 to 5 companies will swing hard and create a drug therapy, but ultimately wish that they'd spent their time on something else instead of coming in 3rd or 4th in a 2-horse race.

Is this a call for government regulation of R & D targets? Not quite, especially since I'm a raging libertarian, but you can't help but make parallels to the days before government regulation of the electricity distribution business (early 1900's) when as many as 20 different companies' wires serviced some neighborhoods, pre-regulation.

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