Industry Seeks Cancer Drugs

The NY Times published a fascinating article today about some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical company chasing after cancer drugs (for profit).

There continues to be significant scientific findings with how cancer cells form and spread throughout the body. The NY Times article states that

According to the PHRMA.org, 861 experimental cancer drugs are currently being tested in clinical trials. This is considerably more than drugs for heart disease, stroke, AIDS and all other infectious diseases, Alzheimer’s and all other neurological diseases.

The NY Times article states that only three of the 861 cancer related drugs currently being tested made it to market within the last two years. Keep in mind that the average the amount spent to bring just ONE drug to market is 1.2 billion dollars!

Of the many new studies being conducted both within the drug research institutions and externally, many are trying to determine how normal cells genetically mutate into the harmful cells that cause cancer. The drug companies then focus on developing molecules that block cell receptors that promote the growth or spread of cancer drugs until the harmful cancer cell dies. This makes the cell unreceptive and unable to reproduce. The molecules are what we commonly call “drugs,” and are also known as biologics.

The problem with cancer is that there are hundreds of different varieties of cancer cells. Think of how many different type of cells there are in your body, and consider the many different ways a cell could mutate. If a researcher finds a way to block one mutated cell, the research must also make sure that it doesn’t harm the rest of the body.

If you were to use sports as an analogy (e.g. basketball), your body would function normally with the correct number of players that come into play and exit at the correct times of play (cells growing and dying). Let’s say that a player get bumped harder than normal, gets upset with the opposing team and starts playing in an unsportsman-like conduct (the cancer cell). The rogue player continues to do hard fouls throughout the season, which hurt both the opposing team as well as the players own team. The team manager (researchers) notices that the team pickups of the bad attitude and sees more players causing unnecessary fouls, and try to find a way to nullify the rogue player and the overall bad attitude without hurting the rest of the team and the franchise.

The following clips from the original article outlines some problems that face researchers:

Tumor cells, like bacteria, can develop resistance to drugs. Some experts believe that drugs that kill most tumor cells do not affect cancer stem cells, which can regenerate the tumor.

“Cancer is not a single disease,” said Robert A. Weinberg, a cancer biologist at the Whitehead Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s really dozens, arguably hundreds of diseases.”

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About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on September 2, 2009, in Health Info, Patents and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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