(RxWiki News) Usually, drug companies are the organizations that discover new medicines. It's rare for drugs to come out of academic labs, but that's just what happened with the first medication found to be effective against advanced prostate cancer.
A new drug still under investigation - MDV3100 - has been shown to help men with advanced prostate cancer live months longer. It works by blocking the cell receptor that drives the growth and spread of prostate cancer.
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Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Charles L. Sawyers, designed and developed MDV3100 with University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) chemist Michael E. Jung.
This is the first drug that prolongs the lives of men whose prostate cancer no longer responds to traditional therapies.
But MDV3100 was met with much skepticism within the pharmaceutical industry, both in terms of its efficacy and the way it has been developed.
"It is a highly unusual for a drug discovered in an academic lab to go all the way to FDA approval," said Sawyers. "The more typical scenario, as was the case with Gleevec, is for a drug company to discover a drug and develop it with the academic community."
Sawyers was instrumental in the development of two drugs for chronic myeloid leukemia, Gleevec and Sprycel. He shared the 2009 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for his work with these medicines.
So he knows how rare his discovery and development are.
Howard I. Scher, M.D., chief of the genitourinary service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (MSKCC), presented the phase III AFFIRM clinical trial results of MDV3100 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Genitourinary meeting, January 31, 2011.
Dr. Scher reported that data from the study show that men with advanced prostate cancer who were treated with MDV3100 lived 18.4 months, compared with 13.6 months for men who received a placebo.
"This translates into a 37 percent reduction in the risk of death in patients who are treated with MDV3100," said Dr. Scher, who is co-principal investigator of the trial.
The multi-national trial is evaluating MDV3100 versus placebo in some 1,200 men with advanced prostate cancer who had been treated with hormonal therapy and docetaxel-based chemotherapy. These treatments had failed.
"The reduction in mortality in this phase III study was higher than we had anticipated," said Scher. "This drug is prolonging survival in patients with a particularly hard-to-treat cancer."
Biopharmaceutical company Medivation, which licensed MDV3100, plans to file a new drug application with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) later this year.
Sawyers and Jung are co-inventors of MDV3100 and could receive royalties if the drug is approved.