Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Interesting new research

1) A sign of research advances to come: a research team used DNA sequencing to find effective uses of approved cancer drugs in new cancer applications.

Study details
target disease indication: colon, lung. (CRC & NSCLC)
core technology: exome sequencing
genes of interest: RET and ALK.
Nutshell: Nexavar, Sutent, and Calpresa ("N,S&C") are each multi-kinase inhibitors approved for other cancers, but they happen to also inhibit RET in addition to their effectiveness against other primary targets (VEGFR). The researchers - backed by Foundation Medicine - found unexpected RET fusion genes in a small subset of samples, and found N,S&C effective in vitro against the cancers with RET expression. The kicker is that neither of the diseases in this study are approved applications for N,S or C. The problem is that the RET or ALK incidence was in only ~2% of the ~600 samples studied.

(Presumably the ALK findings would similarly advance the cause of PFE's Xalkori, and ALK inhibitor.)

This is the type of personalized medicine progress that we've been on the cusp of for awhile, so it is nice to see the promise of personalized medicine become tangible. I expect that we'll see many more studies like this just this year, and each one will advance treatments (and the market for therapeutics) by a tiny bit (in other words, bunt singles, not home runs), but that collectively they'll add up to a big impact, if clinicians can keep all of the findings straight, and if the FDA can fast-track approval for these minor extensions to existing drug approvals. If so, the makers of N,S&C just got a little more valuable and outcomes for patients with CRC or NSCLC just got a little better.

2) new class of anti-cholesterol drugs look tremendously effective. Anti-PSKC9 drugs from Amgen (Phase I) and Regeneron (P II) dramatically cut LDL by using a new way to interdict a known pathway. (The same one targeted by statins.) The AMGN drug is a biological delivered by monthly injection, which makes me wonder: what delivery method has higher effective compliance, a single monthly shot, or daily pills like Lipitor?

Given how early the findings are, though, I don't think we'll see either AMGN or REGN drug on the market until late 2016 at best.

(disclosure: I own a tiny amount of AMGN stock.)

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