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Pharmaceutical Firms Invest Big in New Cancer Therapies

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are hard at work developing “drugs that can target cancer like guided missiles,” according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: “Therapies known as antibody-drug conjugates, which help deliver chemotherapy directly to tumors, have gotten most of the attention and are farthest along: Pfizer’s $43 billion acquisition of biotech Seagen Inc. last year underscored how hot the field has become,” the newspaper reports. “More quietly, a concept known as radiopharmaceuticals is also gaining ground.”

  • In radiopharmaceuticals, a patient is given a radioactive particle “bound with a molecule that can chase down tumor cells.”

Why it’s important: The technology, while still in its infancy, is gaining popularity with drug companies and venture capital firms and “could well become a key part of the fight against cancer in the next decade or so.”

Growing interest: The pharmaceutical industry began to take notice of it after Novartis “made a pair of multibillion-dollar acquisitions starting in 2017. Pluvicto, a therapy Novartis got in one of those acquisitions, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2022 for a type of advanced prostate cancer.”

  • And late last year Eli Lilly acquired radiopharmaceutical firm POINT Biopharma Global Inc.   

A hurdle: Radiopharma’s supply chain presents a challenge, however.

  • “Radioactive isotopes are produced in special nuclear reactors or generators and then shipped to a production facility where they are linked to a cell-targeting compound. The product then needs to be tested and packaged before being shipped to clinics.”
  • Because radioactive material decays in days, shipping speed is paramount.

Better outcomes: Radiopharmaceuticals and antibody-drug conjugates are part of a larger anti-cancer toolbox “that could be used in combination to improve patient outcomes,” according to the Journal.

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