For the cancer drug research enthusiast, this report might read in places like a special oncology edition of a gun magazine. Indeed, there are plenty of weapons against cancer to read about here. Several of the drugs listed here represent the advancement of relatively new methods of attacking cancer, including "armed antibodies" and cancer-killing viruses.
In addition, decades of basic research into the molecular drivers of cancer growth are bearing fruit for drug developers. Not only are these companies making progress in clinical trials, they have landed buyout deals and lucrative partnerships. It's also clear that relatively small companies like Aveo Pharmaceuticals and Curis are making inroads along side the big boys like Pfizer and Roche.
There are 10 late-stage drugs listed in this report, but this editor hesitates to call them the "Top 10" only because there are so many variables to consider to rank them in such a way objectively. Yet these 10 drugs have certainly been generating news and, in most cases, lots of interest among investors and the medical community. All of the drugs have reached pivotal trials for at least one type of cancer.
Here's the list in alphabetical order by each drug's most commonly used moniker, whether that is its alphanumeric code name or generic name. As always, please let us know whether you think there are cancer drugs in pivotal trials that you think should have been on this list or ones on this list that shouldn't be.
1. Carfilzomib - multiple myeloma
2. Crizotinib (PF-02341066) - lung cancer
3. GDC-0449 (vismodegib) - basal cell carcinoma
4. OncoVex - advanced melanoma
5. PLX4032 (RG7204) - melanoma
6. Ponatinib - leukemia
7. SGN-35 (brentuximab vedotin) - Hodgkin's lymphoma, anaplastic large cell lymphomas
8. Tivozanib (AV-951) - advanced renal cell carcinoma
9. T-DM1 (Trastuzumab-DM1) - breast cancer
10. XL184 (cabozantinib) - prostate cancer
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While Onyx Pharmaceuticals ($ONXX) has an approved kidney and liver cancer drug in Nexavar (sorafenib), much of the company's future value growth seems to be tied to its late-stage proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib.
In multiple myeloma, carfilzomib could offer some advantages over existing treatments for the plasma cancer such as reduced nerve damage, according to Onyx. The drug works by selectively inhibiting a protein complex in cells called the proteasome in order to make cancer cells more vulnerable to cell death. In December the firm revealed some promising Phase II data, showing that 24 percent of patients who took the drug after their cancers failed to respond to other therapies had at least a partial response.
Onyx is now conducting Phase III trials that aim to support its bids for approval of the drug for multiple myeloma in the U.S. and Europe. The company said it expanded its European trial in March, bringing the number of patients in the study from 84 to 300 and making overall survival the primary goal of the study rather than progression-free survival-a move that analysts at J.P. Morgan Research viewed as a positive because demonstrating survival benefits could differentiate the drug label among those of other myeloma treatments.
Onyx expects to complete submission of its application for FDA approval of the drug by mid-2011.
Image via CrunchBase