Monday, January 15, 2007

Targeted therapies: 2006 and beyond

A flurry of 2006 year-end/year-in-review articles cited the strides that targeted cancer therapies made in 2006, specifically:

  • The targeted drugs temsirolimus and sunitinib (Sutent) were shown to help people with advanced kidney cancer, which is notoriously difficult to treat, and seemed to have fewer side effects than conventional therapy.
  • Another study found that the investigational drug lapatinib (Tykerb) could slow tumor growth in women with an aggressive form of breast cancer that grew despite treatment with trastuzumab (Herceptin).
  • Dasatinib (Sprycel) eliminated or decreased the number of abnormal blood cells in people with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) who could not tolerate or had become resistant to treatment with Gleevec (imatinib).
  • Adding cetuximab (Erbitux) to radiation therapy for head and neck cancer slowed the growth of the cancer and helped patients live longer.
from ASCO summary.

It's a great view when you can take a year-wide view. It is also educational to realize from these articles that targeted therapies are not yet first line therapies (mostly; congrats to ImClone for the recent approval of Erbitux as a first line therapy). It's also easy to forget that many clinicians haven't yet fully integrated targeted therapies into their practice, and that it's articles like these that are helping to spread the news.

A couple of good quotes for the general public emerged from the article linked in the header:

'Targeted therapy is "one of the most exciting new themes in cancer therapy," according to José Baselga, MD, chief of the medical oncology service and director of medical oncology, hematology, and radiation oncology at Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron University Hospital......."Cancer cells are not as resourceful as you would think," explained Baselga. "If you can hit them in 2 critical pathways, you can destroy them, so if you can combine 2 or 3 therapies, you can cause profound cell death."

And some interesting Gleevec stats were revealed by the Guru of Gleevec, Brian Druker: "If you look at the data overall, 18% of patients [on Gleevec] have some progression event at 5 years, and another 5% discontinue because of side effects," he explained.

1 comment:

TotallyMedicinal said...

Hi. There's a nice review in Nature Chemical Biology (Vol 2, Number 12, p689) which covers some of the issues you have raised here, although it is somewhat more focused on the discovery chemistry side of things.