At the moment only â€˜Zelborafâ€™ or â€˜Vemurafenibâ€™ out of the Roche Big Pharma stables are approved for treating melanoma cancers. Around 160,000 new cases of melanoma are cropping up every year and around 48,000, people are dying from melanoma-related cancers around the World every year. Effective drug treatments for this is the holy grail of pharmaceutical companies everywhere.
GlaxoSmithKline are currently in late stage clinical testing for two new skin cancer treatments. They both work the same way as Rocheâ€™s offerings. That is they are designed to inhibit the different routes by which tumor cells spread. The tests so far are promising in their own limited ways. Best of all they have been judged to be as helpful and less harmful to cancer patients than even chemotherapy.
Trametinib vs. Dabrafenib
The two new drug â€˜horses, called â€˜Trametinibâ€™ and â€˜Dabrafenibâ€™, were analysed for the effectiveness on patients with a genetic mutation called BRAF. About 50% of all melanomas, the form of skin cancer with the highest mortality rate, have this genetic mutation. The cancers happen because the gene mutated cells enable tumor growth factor receptors that open up various pathways. One of these transmission mechanisms is a protein known as MEK. It is the current medical consensus that BRAF-mutated melanomas depend on MEK for the growth that is needed to multiply the cancer’s genetic signature.
The latest outcomes from a key trial of the Roche medication, announced at a conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, indicated that it added almost four months to patient survival rates. Unfortunately, the side effects were severe. Nineteen percent of those given the drug Zelboraf were diagnosed with a type of skin cancer known as â€˜cutaneous squamous-cell carcinomaâ€™ and ten percent suffered other types of non-malignant lesions.
Unfortunately too, most patients developed resistance to the medication over the duration of the trial and afterwards. Minor surgery to remove the lesions was not a problem. However, a more targeted treatment with fewer unwanted side effects is again the goal of the researchers. It is always best not to invade the body with scalpels at all.
If the two new melanoma drugs from GSK fulfill their promises in this regard, they are estimated by Big Pharma financial watchers, to be worth upwards of $2.35 billion in annual sales by 2020. If they can be brought to market by next year, as forecast, they will quickly overtake the Roche drug.
GSB has designed the drug Trametinib to block MEK production and patients in the trial survived for an average 4.8 months longer before going into steep decline. This compares well with a month and a half with the current chemotherapy regime. This equates to a 46% reduction in the mortality risk. Dabrafinib is a BRAF inhibitor, and it succeeds in extending life expectancy by an average 5.1 months before the cancer took hold. This compared with less than three months for chemotherapy patients. The ill effects of the drug were skin rashes in 7% of subjects plus some eye difficulties, and some raised blood pressure.
[box type=”important”]At the midway point of the medical trials for both drugs combined, the life extension was 7.4 months before the tumors really took hold. GBS are now conducting final vital trials and plan to submit the new drugs for FDA approval as single agent therapies.[/box]