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Published on 14 November 2008

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Smart research leads to more drugs

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More cancer drugs than ever are passing the trial stage and reaching patients due to a better understanding of the disease, according to research.

The Cancer Research UK study looked at 974 cancer drugs in clinical development and calculated that, if current trends continue, around 18% of those would make it to market. Previously it was estimated that only 5% of cancer drugs in development become standard treatments for the disease.

The research, published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, also showed that between 1995 and 2007 a family of molecularly targeted drugs called kinase inhibitors were almost three times more likely to reach patients than other types of anticancer drug.

Molecularly targeted drugs are usually less toxic than traditional chemotherapy alternatives and produce fewer unpleasant side-effects.

Researchers believe a greater understanding of the basic biology of cancer has enabled the development of this type of major new drug – which includes Herceptin for breast cancer and Glivec for leukaemia.

Dr Ian Walker, from Cancer Research UK, said: “This analysis clearly demonstrates the benefits of developing molecularly targeted treatments for cancer. It highlights the fact that understanding more about the basic biology of cancer is making a real difference to the success rate of new anticancer drug development.

It’s clear that further significant achievements in cancer drug development will be dependent on continued research into new and relevant molecular targets.”

Copyright Press Association 2008

Nature Reviews Drug Discovery



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