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Pharma unprepared for personalised oncology

Published on 29/11/10 at 11:15am

The new era of personalised cancer care requires different thinking from pharma companies, according to experts at the ESMO symposium.

The Cancer Biology for Clinicians Symposium in Nice, hosted by the European Society for Medical Oncology, also heard there is a need for governments and clinicians to adapt to the new paradigm.

Millions of cancer patients worldwide may soon be able to receive more effective, personalised treatments for their disease thanks to developments in the understanding of cancer biology.

But to make the most of this “coming transformation” governments, pharma and doctors “urgently need to adapt the way drugs are developed”, Symposium speakers said.

Fabrice André, from the Institut Gustave Roussy in France, who co-chaired a session at the Symposium, said: “As our understanding of cancer biology develops further, these kinds of personalised treatments are expected to become available for many more cancer types.

“If we want to facilitate the implementation of this kind of personalised medicine, then we urgently need to develop new strategies for cancer drug development.”

In particular, Dr Andre said it is time to rethink whether the standard model of testing drugs in large phase III trials is an effective way to bring these targeted cancer drugs to patients.

“Regulatory processes are becoming increasingly restrictive in providing patient access to potentially innovative new drugs, because even the largest cancer trials generally involve only a small portion of the cancer patient population, and because the drug development process is often more than a decade from the first pre-clinical study,” he added.

ESMO said this is related to the fact that drug approval usually needs large confirmatory trials that are carried in an unselected population.

There is also a need for smaller trials done with selected patients to be highly sensitive, a concept that requires the development of molecular selection and relative platforms for doing that.

Andre concluded that it was clear that we “urgently need a new paradigm” for drug development, including “targeted patient selection for clinical trials, shorter duration of clinical trials and improvement of the cost-effectiveness”, in bringing a new drug to the market.

The ESMO Cancer Biology for Clinicians Symposium is a two-day meeting featuring some of the most eminent researchers in the field, and is designed to inform oncologists about the ways cancer biology is changing clinical practice.

Ben Adams

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