MD Anderson Strikes Deal With Drug Company With Up To $335 million

Image courtesy the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Giulio Draetta, M.D., Ph.D
MD Anderson has struck a deal with GlaxoSmithKline to bring a new cancer treatment to market. To date, it's the largest financial partnership the cancer hospital has made with an outside pharmaceutical company.

The agreement will build on the discovery of immune system antibodies at MD Anderson.

Recent studies indicate these antibodies may spur the white blood cells to attack cancer more effectively.

Dr. Giulio Draetta is director of the hospital’s Institute for Applied Cancer Science.

“This is incredible because it’s the first example of what we really want to do.”

The antibodies were discovered by a doctor who has since moved to Baylor in Dallas. He will stay involved but the drug development will be carried forward by teams at MD Anderson.

Dr. Draetta says scientists first need to figure out which kinds of cancer the antibodies will work well against. He says good targets include melanoma, lymphoma and other solid tumors.

The approach is similar to a vaccine that was developed for patients with melanoma.

“It’s a biological therapy, it’s something that would come in a vial and would be injected periodically. Usually these antibodies are injected on a frequency of once every two weeks, or once a month.”

Chemotherapy attacks cancer cells directly, but this type of immunotherapy prods the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.

Draetta says there are often fewer side effects.

“We’re talking about long-term remission here, we’re not talking about increasing survival for two or three months. And that’s why we are so excited about this new project.”

If the drug development succeeds and the treatment eventually wins FDA approval, MD Anderson could get $335 million dollars for the research, plus royalties.

In return, GlaxoSmithKline will get exclusive worldwide rights to the drug.

From the KUHF Health and Science Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.

 

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Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...