Pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb is developing a new drug that may be uniquely effective against lung cancer, among other diseases.
The drug’s progress through clinical trials is noted for its ability to “unleash the body’s T-cells” to fight against cancer cells, Bloomberg reported.
Lung cancer is diagnosed in nearly 200,000 Americans each year, making it the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.
Early results of the drug’s effect shows real hope for patients battling this all-too prevalent disease.
“This could be a breakthrough for lung cancer,” said Julie Brahmer, an oncologist from the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
The disease is caused primarily by smoking and secondhand smoke, but also can be caused by asbestos exposure and exposure to radon.
Bristol’s drug, currently known as BMS-936558, utilizes a defense against particular immune system functions. Within the trial, the drug is attacking melanoma and is encouraging these T-cells to battle off the cancer.
Encouraging Trial Results
The first phase of the clinical trial, which is executed for the purpose of gaining regulatory approval, hinted at signs of success.
In a group of 240 patients, BMS-936558 shrunk the tumors of 13 out of 75 lung cancer patients. For melanoma patients, 24 of 95 patients noticed shrunken tumors, while 10 of 33 kidney cancer patients saw their tumors shrink as well.
While some perceive these limited results as relatively inconsequential, researchers remain hopeful because they strive to use this treatment as a “backbone” for combined treatment options that may arise in the future.
In addition to Bristol’s drug, chemotherapy could be applied to fend off the immune system from cancer cells, says Seamus Fernandez, an a analyst at equity research company Leerink Swann & Co.
“It is the early stage of a whole new field of cancer therapy.”
Fernandez further predicts that the company may earn over $4 billion a year through sales of the drug, if it progresses through all clinical stages and enters the market.
Reports show that based on the drug’s positive results, the company plans to skip the second phase and move forward into the last stages of the human trials where testing on lung cancer, melanoma and kidney cancer continues.
These last trials would begin later this year for lung and kidney cancer, while the testing on melanoma wouldn’t begin until 2013.
Competition Could Benefit Cancer Patients
According to Bloomberg, Bristol is competing against at least five other companies that are developing similar drugs aimed at the same cancer-targeting approach.
These other drug makers include Merck & Co., Whitehouse Station, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche Holding AG and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
For the hundreds of thousands of lung cancer patients who may have not-so bright prognoses, a fast race to the finish line among drug manufacturers could be a great thing.
Bristol appears to be in the lead.
Lung cancer is the second-second most common cancer in the United States and treatment options normally consist of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, or a combination of the three.
David Gobin is one patient who participated in the clinical trial for Bristol’s experimental drug and has stated positive results after the treatment.
“This is a miracle drug for me,” said Gobin.
He says that he is breathing more easily and gained nearly 20 pounds after losing it. Furthermore, he plans to play golf for the first time in years.