Dutch pharmaceuticals, oncologists team up to test cancer drugs

Dutch pharmaceuticals and oncologists are teaming up in a new experiment to test experimental cancer drugs on patients quickly and safely. Pharmaceuticals will make their cancer drugs available to oncologists, who in exchange will let them know how patients react to the medicines, the Volkskrant reports.

This experiment tackles an ever growing problem in cancer medication. Each drug that forms part of the experiment is designed to tackle a specific DNA error in tumor cells and only tested and registered for cancers in which the DNA error appears the most - for example ovarian cancer or prostate cancer. The same DNA error can also be present in other forms of cancer in other parts of the body. But due to the fact that the drug will have to be separately registered for each cancer type and expense in testing the medicine, the drugs are unavailable to these patients, while they may be able to help.

In this experiment, pharmaceuticals make their drugs available to oncologists, who can prescribe the drugs to patients with cancer other than what the drug is registered for, but which contain the same DNA error. In this way oncologists can determine whether the medication is effective in unregistered cancers and give the results through to the pharmaceuticals. If the results are positive, the pharmaceuticals can research and register the drug for another type of cancer.

So far two large pharmaceutical companies already made five of their drugs available for the experiment. Six other companies are still in negotiations. Twelve Dutch hospitals, all members of the Center for Personal Cancer Treatment (CPCT), are participating in this experiment. Oncologist Emile Voest of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek hospital and professors Hans Gelderblom of the Leiden University Center and Henk Verheul of VUmc are leading the investigation.

The American Association of Oncologists started a similar initiative this spring and Canadian oncologist recently announced their intention to do the same. The oncologists' findings will be shared internationally. In this way useful research can be accelerated and unnecessary studies can be avoided, according to the newspaper.