Report Explores Factors Contributing to Success and Failure in Cancer Treatments

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A report from PhRMA highlights how drugs that failed in clinical trials are a crucial part of development for melanoma, lung cancer, and brain cancer.

A report released on Oct. 7, 2014 by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), "Researching Cancer Medicines: Setbacks and Stepping Stones," highlights the number of investigational cancer medicines that did not succeed in clinical trials and how these so-called "failures" are a crucial part of the drug development process.

The report illustrates the immense challenges in bringing new medicines to patients with cancer and explores the factors that contributed to both the approvals of new treatments and those that "failed" between 1998 and 2014. The report focuses on three cancers that are particularly difficult to treat: melanoma, lung cancer, and brain cancer.

The report found that 96 potential treatments for melanoma did not make it through clinical trials, but paved the way for seven approved medicines, a nearly 14:1 ratio of failures to successes. Ten medicines have been approved to treat lung cancer, whereas 167 potential treatments did not make it through clinical trials. Only three new medicines have been approved to treat brain cancer, while 75 investigational medicines were unsuccessful in the development process.

Despite these challenges, America’s biopharmaceutical companies continue to invest in research to develop new treatments. According to a new report by PhRMA, there are 771 cancer medicines and vaccines either in clinical trials or awaiting review by FDA. Of these medicines, more than 50 are for the treatment of melanoma, 98 for lung cancer, and 47 for brain cancer.


"While it may sound counterintuitive, research setbacks are instrumental to furthering efforts to better understand a disease and how to treat it. They are also an indication of the incredible difficulty in developing medicines to treat cancer," said PhRMA President and CEO John J. Castellani in a press release.

Source: PhRMA