NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Cancer Drugs Under Development

May 25, 1999

For the second year in a row, the Centers for Disease Control reported in 1999 that death rates from cancer are falling -- notably death rates from breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and leukemia.

Better treatments, including more powerful and targeted prescription drugs, are a major factor in the decline, according to an industry group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

A new PhRMA survey found 354 new drugs in development for cancer. The medicines include:

  • 63 for breast cancer, which strikes one out of every 10 American women;
  • 58 for skin cancer including melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, whose incidence has grown 4 percent a year since the 1970s;
  • 58 for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.; and 46 for colon cancer, the second leading cancer killer of both men and women.

Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are working on novel and promising ways to fight the disease. For example:

  • Clinical trials are being conducted on at least a dozen drugs that strangle the blood vessels that feed tumors.
  • A vaccine made from a patient's own surgically removed colon tumor that is injected into the patient to boost the immune system to fight a recurrence of the cancer reduced the five-year recurrence rate by 61 percent, according to a study published in the Lancet.
  • A protein may be able to inhibit the toxic effects of chemotherapy on non-cancerous cells, allowing doctors to give patients higher, more effective doses of anti-cancer drugs.

Despite the progress being made, cancer is still the second leading killer of Americans, surpassed only by heart disease. Cancer will claim an estimated 560,000 American lives this year.

Source: "New Medicines in Development for Cancer: a 1999 Survey," May 1999, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, 1100 Fifteenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 835-3400.


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