Chicago – At the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago, Charles L Sawyers, MD, President of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and one of the United States leading cancer researchers, told the 30,000 meeting attendees in the plenary session that we need to get to combination therapy faster in order to overcome cancer drug resistance.
In his Science of Oncology Award lecture entitled “Overcoming Resistance to Cancer Drug Therapy,” he told the audience that drug resistance is universal. It represents one of the key challenges in cancer treatment. A patient may obtain a dramatic response on a new treatment, but as the cancer finds escape routes among the network of cellular signaling pathways, resistance to the drug is acquired and the cancer reappears.
You can read a previous interview with Dr Sawyers on Pharma Strategy Blog.
Daniel O’Day, COO of Roche Pharmaceuticals, referred to Dr Sawyers’ ASCO lecture at a corporate event in Chicago. He told analysts that a key future strategy for Roche will be improving cancer treatment with combinations. The ability to bring effective combinations to market faster will favor large companies such as Roche who have a robust pipeline of cancer drugs in development. You can see Genentech’s perspective on this via a well thought out post from their VP of Clinical Development, Chris Bowden.
The other advantage of a broad robust pipeline for large Pharma is the ability to leverage this strategically and globally as the reimbursement landscape changes. In the HER2 arena, for example, Roche could hold the price of Perjeta while offering discounts to Herceptin, thereby offering a lower price for the combination that might be attractive to purchasers. In Europe, this kind of creative bargaining is becoming more common in the approval process as Health Authorities seek to reduce costs and find more affordable options before giving approval for new drugs in their market.
Dr Sawyers talk was one of the highlights of ASCO 2013 for me. I captured the essence of his presentation from the many tweets that took place as it was presented. Here’s a link to the Storify.