Drug Giants Target Cancer

Scientific advances, potentially huge profits attract Big Pharma to cancer fight
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2009 2:16 AM CDT
A researcher works on an experiment in a research laboratory at Genentech headquarters.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
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(Newser) – Major drug companies are tying their fortunes to cancer like never before, the New York Times reports. The firms—inspired by advancements in science as well as the high prices cancer drugs command—are pouring unprecedented resources into the search for new cancer drugs. The drug giants hope cancer treatments can replace sliding revenue from other drugs, although the fact that very few cancer drugs ever break through to market makes it a risky business.

Most cancer drugs offer patients only a few months of extra life at the cost of many thousands of dollars. But industry execs say they are balancing the cost of seeking "longshot" drugs by developing others with more modest results and a better chance of making it past clinical trials.  "If you always swing for home runs, you strike out a lot,” said the chief of one biotechnology firm with 11 cancer drugs under development.