“At a time when cancer still kills one in four Americans, it is a job that requires as much hubris as heart. To chronicle the trial of the drug known as PLX4032 is to ride a roller coaster of breakthroughs and setbacks at what many oncologists see as a watershed moment in understanding the genetic changes that cause cancer.”
Source: The New York Times
The NY Times is running a three-part series on PLX4032, a B-Raf inhibitor being developed for the treatment of malignant melanoma by Plexxikon and Roche/Genentech. Hat tip to my buddy Bill Scully of the HCA Group for sending the link. Today, was the first installment in the series. The article, although a little breathless and hypey for my taste, is well worth reading.
A few years ago, I interviewed the physician, Dr Keith Flaherty involved in the trials at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, after he presented the initial phase I results of the trial. Most interviews usually take about 5-10 mins, because the researcher is busy and rushing between sessions. Dr Flaherty stopped and chatted about the disease, treatments, the new data and it’s implications for 40 minutes. His energy and enthusiasm for finding a better treatment for his patients was both palpable and admirable. He reminded me vividly of Dr Brian Druker from OHSU, who I worked with at Novartis (a former employer and a client) on the drug Gleevec in CML.
The reality of phase I cancer trials is that many patients will sadly die and most drugs fail to offer any sign of efficacy or have toxic side effects that prevent pursuing further development. I sincerely hope the Plexxikon/Roche agent actually amounts to something; the companies announced the commencement of phase III trials last month, which is a promising sign.
Every once in a while, something comes along where the science, biology and clinical development totally gel, offering new hope and promise for everyone involved from patients to physicians to Pharma company. That’s what you all live for and work countless long hours to make happen.
It’s the stuff dreams are made of.