Intended for healthcare professionals


Some cancers are “missing out” on new drugs

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 04 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5128
  1. Jacqui Thornton
  1. London

A major analysis of European regulatory data on drugs for cancer has shown that though “incredible” advances in research have led to 97 new medicines in 177 indications being authorised in 16 years, certain cancers were “missing out,” with no new drugs at all.

The new report by the Institute of Cancer Research in London found that no treatments had been authorised by the European Medicines Agency for brain, womb, bladder, and oesophageal cancers between 2000 and 2016 and only one for liver cancer.1

This compared with 64 for blood cancers, 23 for lung cancer, and 15 for breast cancer.

Paul Workman, the institute’s chief executive, said that this was a concern because no treatments existed to “effectively address” these poorly served cancers. He told a briefing in London on 3 December, “More drugs are coming through, but many tumour types are missing out on these great advances.”

Only eight of the 97 new drug authorisations were for children, including two for solid tumours, which account for around 60% of new cases of cancer in childhood each year and are often harder to treat than childhood blood cancers.

Sally George, a consultant paediatrician at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and a clinical research fellow at the Institute of Cancer Research, said that there was an urgent need …

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