Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Gleevec

Gleevec, a successful drug for curing a rare type of cancer called Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), is the harbinger of a new kind of drugs. These drugs are developed by precisely identifying a genetic defect that causes a certain disease and then designing molecules to inhibit the effects of the genetic defect at a molecular level. While Gleevec is based on a genetic discovery made in 1960, now--with the human genome fully mapped--we can expect an acceleration in the development of this kind of drugs over the next decade.(Gleevec was approved by FDA in 2003)

Here is an excellent article on the history of Gleevec:

"When Brian Druker was a medical student, he envisioned destroying cancer without devastating the patient. 'My most vivid memory was when we learned about chemotherapy. I thought, 'My God, this stuff works but it's horrible.' ' Nearly 20 years later, Druker the physician has helped a better way materialize in the form of STI-571, a drug that selectively targets chronic myelogenous leukemia cells without any of the traditional chemotherapy side effects...

"This is called 'specificity' in drug development, where academics and industry are devoted to understanding, at the most basic molecular level, differences between cancer cells and non-cancer cells. This understanding, which National Cancer Institute director Richard Klausner, M.D., describes as 'molecular credentialing,' is offering scores of new targets to which drug developers can tailor--sometimes atom by atom--cancer-specific drugs."

-- Shrikant Rangnekar

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