2000-2009 – Fruitful Decade of Cancer Treatment
After many decades of research and investment of billions of dollars on war against cancer, the decade of 2000-2009 finally gained momentum of conquering the deadly diseases. A number of new classes of anti-cancer drugs were successfully marketed and are being used for patients to save life and improve quality of life. The following ten (10) anti-cancer drugs are powerful testaments that 2000-2009 is a fruitful decade of cancer treatment.
The revolution of cell and molecular biology has made enormous strides in understanding the molecular pathology of cancer and in defining therapeutic targets. Antibody based technology leads the way of generating advanced cancer treatments. This was achieved by the realization of mass production of antibody and by the understanding of the well-defined therapeutic target antibody interacts with. Rituxan, the first ever antibody used for human cancer treatment, was approved for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in November 1997 and was expanded its indications to other B cell tumors in February 2006. Many cancer cells require signals mediated by epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) for their survival. Erbitux binds to EGFR, prevents tumor growth, and is being used for treatment of colorectal, head and neck, and lung cancers.
Heceptin attaches to human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, prevents the tumor cell growth, and is applied for breast cancer treatment. One important hallmark of cancer is angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels. The growth of the endothelial cells that form the inner lining of the blood vessels is one of the most important step in establishing new blood vessels. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) makes a significant contribution to this process. Avastin binds to VEGF, inhibits the growth factor, prevents tumor angiogenesis and tumor growth, and is applied for treatment of colorectal and lung cancers.
Cancer genesis is associated with a number of abnormal cellular functions. Some protein kinases play critical role in the signaling pathways of cancer. It is feasible to use kinase inhibitor to suppress kinase activity and to control tumor growth. On May 10, 2001, FDA approved Gleevec, the first kinase inhibitor, for treatment of leukemia, chronic myelonic leukemia (CML). Gleevec is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor and works by interfering with the abnormal protein, Bcr-Abl, and blocking it from telling the body to keep making more and more abnormal white blood cells. Clinical study also approved that Gleevec is safe and effective for gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) and FDA approved Gleevec for GIST on February 1, 2002. Iressa and Tarceva are kinase inhibitors that target EGFR and both drugs are approved for treatment of lung cancer. Sutent is an oral small molecule drug that inhibits multiple kinase pathways, including EGFR and VEGF. It is approved for treatment of kidney cancer.
Vaccines have been exceptionally effective against communicable diseases and have become safe and effective weapons against cervical cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the causative agent of cervical cancer. Cervarix and Gardasil are used to generate immune response and prevent the HPV infection, thus prevent development of cervical cancer.
The genetic codes that are responsible for lung and skin cancers are established. In the near future, genetic maps of all cancers will be decoded. Cancer gene maps lay a solid foundation for future cancer medicine and would drive significant advances for cancer treatment in the coming decade.