The FDA approval earlier this week of ibrutinib (Imbruvica) for the treatment of mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), and the recent approval of GA101 / obinutuzumab (Gazyva), for previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is good news for patients.

The forthcoming annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in New Orleans (Dec 7 – 10, 2013) is set to be an exciting event with the launch of new products to treat blood cancers.

Both ibrutinib in MCL and obinutuzumab were granted “breakthrough therapy” designation (BTD) from the FDA. Over the past several months I have been researching what a BTD may mean for cancer drug development.

The catchy “breakthrough” title has given companies and the FDA a noticeable bonanza of good PR, but there’s been a paucity of critical analysis by the media. I have yet to see a convincing argument that that there was a compelling need for a new approval pathway for cancer drugs, or that innovative and breakthrough cancer drugs such as imatinib (Glivec/Gleevec) and crizotinib (Xalkori) could have got to market any faster.

One of the key FDA decision makers is John K. Jenkins, MD, Director, Office of New Drugs in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER); he’s Richard Pazdur’s boss. I had the privilege to conduct a phone interview with him over the summer.

In my first post from this interview, subscribers to Premium Content will obtain Dr Jenkins’ perspective on what constitutes a breakthrough? If you are an investor you want to try and predict what may be a “breakthrough” before it becomes one…

 Understanding the Breakthrough Therapy Designation   Part 1 of an interview with FDA New Drugs Director John Jenkins

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