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Posted on: 06/27/2003



Washington D.C.- There is hope for cancer victims today with pharmaceutical researchers working on 395 new medicines for cancer according to a survey released by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Many of these are high-tech weapons that fight the disease in new ways, while some involve research on new ways to use existing medicines. The National Cancer Institute and 181 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are conducting the research.

The medicines in development, all of which are either in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration, include 70 for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the United States; 49 for breast cancer, which is expected to strike 200,000 American women in 2003; 48 for colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer in both men and women in the U.S.; and 44 for prostate cancer, which is expected to kill 29,000 American men this year.

Other potential medicines target kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, skin cancer, ovarian cancer, and others. In addition, companies are working on medicines to improve the quality of life for people undergoing cancer treatment.

"This commitment to research promises to continue and accelerate the remarkable progress made against cancer in the past decade," said PhRMA President Alan F. Holmer. He pointed out that in the past few years, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies have contributed to this progress by bringing cutting-edge new cancer treatments to patients. These include:

A breakthrough drug for a chronic myeloid leukemia that works by blocking the chemical signal responsible for cancer cell growth.

A monoclonal antibody engineered to zero in on, and kill, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cells.

A medicine that keeps growth factors from feeding certain types of breast cancer cells.

"Despite the progress, cancer remains the second leading cause of death by disease in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease," said Holmer. "This year, some 556,500 Americans are expected to die of cancer - more than 1,500 people a day. The pharmaceutical industry's commitment to research, evidenced by the hundreds of medicines in development for this disease, is our best hope of stemming this toll and, one day, winning the war on cancer."

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country's leading research-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. The industry invested an estimated $32 billion in 2002 in discovering and developing new medicines. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures.

Here is the background covering JUST A FEW of the medications being studied:


GenasenseT, Genta, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Phase II

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed non-skin cancer in women. More than 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected in the U.S. in 2003. A medicine in the pipeline for breast cancer targets the Bcl-2 protein, which appears to contribute to the resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapy. By reducing the amount of this protein in cancer cells, the medicine may be able to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy. The medicine is also being tested in other types of cancer.

PlenaxisT, Praecis Pharmaceuticals, application submitted

Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men. Nearly 29,000 American men are expected to die of the disease this year. Both incidence and death rates for prostate cancer are higher in African American men than in other men. A potential new medicine for prostate cancer is the first in a new class of drugs known as gonadotropin release hormone antagonists that rapidly suppress the production of testosterone, a male hormone that fuels the growth of prostate cancer cells. In clinical trials, the medicine reduced levels of the hormone faster than existing treatments.

TarcevaT, Genentech, OSI Pharmaceuticals, Roche, Phase III

Pancreatic cancer kills an estimated 30,000 Americans a year. Nearly 31,000 new cases are expected this year. A potential new medicine for this disease targets the human epidermal growth factor receptor pathway, which is involved in the formation and growth of cancers. The drug is designed to block the signaling pathway, potentially inhibiting the growth of tumor cells. It is being studied in conjunction with existing treatments. It is also being studied as a treatment for lung cancer and other solid tumors.

1311-TM-601, TransMolecular, Inc., Phase I./II

Brain cancers are among the most difficult cancers to treat. About 36,000 primary brain tumors are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and more than 17,000 of these are high-grade gliomas, a highly invasive form of cancer that sends cancerous cells throughout the brain and spinal cord. A potential weapon against this disease is a radiopharmaceutical containing a synthetic version of a substance derived from scorpions, known as chlorotoxin. The chlorotoxin helps deliver a radioactive payload directly to the tumor cells.

Allovectin-7®, Vical, Phase II

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. More than 54,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and more than 7,000 will die. A potential new medicine targets late-stage metastatic melanoma. The medicine contains a gene encoding an antigen that may be able to alert the immune system to the presence of foreign tissue, inducing a powerful immune response.

AffinitakT, Isis Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, Phase III

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and is expected to cause more than 157,000 deaths this year. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most prevalent form of lung cancer, accounting for about 75 percent of lung cancers diagnosed in the U.S. A potential weapon against non-small cell lung cancer is an antisense anti-cancer compound that inhibits the production of a protein that transmits signals that trigger abnormal cell growth. It is being studied in conjunction with other standard cancer medicines.

ABX-EGF, Amgen, Abgenix, Phase II

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women. Nearly 150,000 new case of the disease are expected in 2003. A potential medicine in development is a monoclonal antibody that targets the epidermal growth factor receptor. Cancer cells can become dependent on the growth signals mediated through this receptor. By blocking the receptor, the medicine may be able to stop the growth of cancer cells and eradicate existing cancer cells.


Contacts: Jeff Trewhitt (202) 835 3464, Bruce Lott (202) 835 3474, Claude M. Gruener (512) 479 5080 or 415 7819 (cell)

PhRMA Internet Address:

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