April 19, 2012
Company news: Cancer Research UK, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association
A genetic study of breast cancer has found ten distinct types of the disease and ferreted out “a slew” of previously unknown genetic factors that influence the cancer's aggressiveness. Researchers on the METABRIC study, published in the journal Nature, looked at 2,000 breast tumors taken from women diagnosed between five and ten years ago and found ten types varying widely in aggressiveness and responsiveness to extant therapies. The findings, wrote Cancer Research UK chief Dr. Harpal Kumar, “confirm that our existing ‘breast cancer map' is outdated—there should be 10 ‘countries,' not four ‘continents' – and this is now territory we need to urgently explore.” Dr. Kumar, writing in The Guardian, said “the study identified a slew of new cancer genes, which will make excellent targets for a new generation of Herceptin-like drugs. We hope that, one day, drugs will exist for all these subgroups, so no woman will ever have to be told she has the ‘wrong' type of breast cancer.” The current classification scheme, which groups breast cancer into four categories based on whether tumors are estrogen-positive or HER2 gene-positive and directs treatment accordingly (hormone therapies like Tamoxifen for the former, Herceptin for the latter), is too “simplistic,” wrote Dr. Kumar. “One of the newly discovered types consisted of women with apparently aggressive cancers who actually did very well,” he wrote. “Closer inspection showed that these women were rescued by their own immune systems. We urgently need to know how.” The study was sponsored by Cancer Research UK.
The Generic Pharmaceutical Association tapped IMS Health to serve as “independent third party” in its Accelerated Recovery Initiative, meant to speed the resolution of drug shortages. IMS, said GPhA, “will play a crucial role in assisting the FDA with a more accurate, timely and comprehensive view of current and potential drug shortage situations, and in establishing practices to lessen or eliminate the impact of a current shortage.”