Memorial Sloan-Kettering has played a leadership role in recent successes in treating advanced prostate cancer, which are offering men and their doctors new weapons against the disease.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, this trend reflects a growing realization on the part of the pharmaceutical industry that closer ties to academic researchers can speed the development of new drugs.
The latest evidence of progress cited in the story is work presented by Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Howard Scher at the February 1 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Genitourinary Cancers Symposium.
Dr. Scher, Chief of the Genitourinary Oncology Service, discussed successful clinical trial results for the experimental prostate cancer drug known as MDV3100, now licensed to the pharmaceutical company Medivation, Inc.
This novel targeted therapy extended the life of 1,199 men with advanced prostate cancer by nearly five months, Dr. Scher explained at the symposium. These results “exceeded expectations,” he said in a separate press release. Learn more about how MDV3100 works.
The Path to Drug Development
The Wall Street Journal reports that the promising prostate cancer drug “is notable for how it was developed”: largely in the research laboratory of Charles Sawyers, Chair of Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program.
Aided by the growing research understanding of the biology of prostate cancer, Dr. Sawyers and others identified an alternative target for treating patients who relapsed on standard hormone therapies and went on to design a drug themselves – a task normally performed by drug company scientists.
A 13-center research consortium, organized by Dr. Scher to speed the development of medications for prostate cancer, studied the drug in clinical trials where “researchers rapidly enrolled 140 patients, with promising results.”
“If the drugs [MDV3100 and a radiation-emitting drug targeting prostate cancer that has spread to the bone] win approval soon from the US Food and Drug Administration, as some researchers expect,” the story says, “it would mean that after decades of frustration, the pharmaceutical industry will have turned out five new treatments for advanced prostate cancer within just three years.”
While none are cures, the story notes that some researchers contend the options will generate new strategies in which the drugs are used in combination, or sequentially, to extend survival.