Merck, Roche and Sanofi Working to Develop Drugs to Target More Than One Type of Cancer
Posted Dec 25 2012 2:20pm
Right now it is important to know the origin of cancer, in other words is it breast cancer or kidney cancer that migrated to the lungs. The targets to treat are very specific and thus we have read stories of patients being given the wrong medication with treating “lung” cancer that originated in the kidney, so thus it is really kidney cancer and not lung cancer. There have been attempts in the past to do this but they have not worked.
Cancer cells have damaged DNA. The p53 protein is the target and cancer cells disable this protein so the process here is to reanimate p53 in cancer cells so they die on their own, quite a task. Roche started testing a p53 drug a few years ago and the cancer cells appeared to be dying. The clinical trials were only testing for safety. Merck is also working to find a safe dose but the results depend on 2 molecules breaking apart and the disabling of the p53 in cancer cells. It sounds like all 3 companies have a lot riding here with the targets and hopefully we will see some good results based on long lengthy genetic research. BD
For the first time ever, three pharmaceutical companies are poised to test whether new drugs can work against a wide range of cancers independently of where they originated — breast, prostate, liver, lung. The drugs go after an aberration involving a cancer gene fundamental to tumor growth. Many scientists see this as the beginning of a new genetic age in cancer research.
Great uncertainties remain, but such drugs could mean new treatments for rare, neglected cancers, as well as common ones. Merck, Roche and Sanofi are racing to develop their own versions of a drug they hope will restore a mechanism that normally makes badly damaged cells self-destruct and could potentially be used against half of all cancers.
The p53 story began in earnest about 20 years ago. Excitement ran so high that, in 1993, Science magazine anointed it Molecule of the Year and put it on the cover. An editorial held out the possibility of “a cure of a terrible killer in the not too distant future.”
Companies began chasing a drug to restore p53 in cells where it was disabled by mutations. But while scientists know how to block genes, they have not figured out how to add or restore them. Researchers tried gene therapy, adding good copies of the p53 gene to cancer cells. That did not work.