Abbott and Pfizer To Fight Lung Cancer As A Team

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Drug giants Abbott Laboratories and Pfizer Inc. are joining forces on a project designed to match a genetic test (from Abbott Molecular, a unit of Abbott Labs) for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with a new drug to treat it. According to the American Cancer Society, 80 to 90 percent of all cases of lung cancer are the non-small cell type.

The action being taken by Abbott and Pfizer is an example of personalized medicine, a relatively new concept in which physicians use new technologies to identify the specific details of a patient’s biochemistry and design tests and treatments to meet his or her medical need. In this case, Abbott Molecular will develop a test that determines the presence of gene rearrangement in non-small cell lung cancer tumors.

Gene rearrangement, also known as translocation, means a gene is in a different location than it should be in. When gene rearrangement is present, it can contribute to the conversion of a normal cell into a cancerous one. Translocation occurs in other types of cancer as well, including prostate, breast, thyroid, and myeloma, among others.

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The goal of Abbott’s test will be to identify the 6 to 7 percent of people with non-small cell lung cancer who have gene rearrangement. These individuals will then be candidates for clinical trials of Pfizer’s drug, PF-02341066, which selectively targets cancer-causing genes.

Although 6 to 7 percent may not sound like a lot, the math proves otherwise: according to the American Cancer Society, 219,440 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in 2009. Ninety percent of that figure is approximately 200,000; and 6 to 7 percent of that figure is 12,000 to 14,000 people who could be specifically identified by Abbott’s test for treatment with Pfizer’s drug.

The type of collaborative project being undertaken by Abbott and Pfizer in the battle against lung cancer will be repeated by other drug companies for other cancers and diseases as new gene tests and innovative technologies are developed and become more accurate and affordable. As part of the effort, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization called Personalized Medicine Coalition has formed, which serves to foster discussion and advance understanding of personalized medicine for the benefit of patients.

SOURCES:
American Cancer Society
Personalized Medicine Coalition
Reuters 8/27/09

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