New Drugs in Oncology 2012

Michelle TaymureeBy Michelle Taymuree, PharmD, MBA

The Food and Drug Administration believes Americans should have access to safe and effective drug therapies as early as possible and in 2012 approved 35 novel medicines that can now be used by physicians across the country. Of these 35 novel drugs, 15 were particularly notable for their significant contributions to the health and quality of life of patients. Of the 15 drugs, 8 were specifically targeted to cancer treatment or cancer related treatment and 5 of the 8 drugs can be taken orally.

  • Erivedge is the first FDA approved drug for late-stage (metastatic) basal cell cancer, the most common form of skin cancer. Erivedge can be taken orally.
  • Xtandi was approved to treat men with late-stage (metastatic) castration-resistant prostate cancer that has spread or recurred, even after medical or surgical therapy to minimize the prostate tumor growth hormone, testosterone. Xtandi can be taken orally.
  • Jakafi is the first drug to be approved for patients with myelofibrosis. Myelofibrosis is a rare disease in which the bone marrow is replaced by scar tissue, forcing blood cells to be made in the liver or spleen rather than in the bone marrow. This causes enlarged spleens, pain, anemia, fatigue and other symptoms. This is the first drug approved to decrease patients’ symptoms. Jakafi can be taken orally.
  • Voraxaze was approved to lower the toxic levels of the chemotherapy drug, methotrexate. Methotrexate is a commonly used cancer chemotherapy drug normally eliminated from the body by the kidneys. Patients receiving high doses of methotrexate may, however, develop kidney failure. Voraxaze lowers the toxin levels to the kidney.
  • Erwinaze is the first treatment for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who have developed an allergy to E. coli-derived asparaginase and pegaspargase drugs.
  • Stivarga is the latest colorectal cancer treatment to demonstrate an ability to extend patients’ lives and was the second drug FDA approved for patients with colorectal cancer within two months. Zaltrap was the first. Stivarga can be taken orally.
  • Perjeta was approved for patients with late-stage (metastatic) breast cancer. Perjeta is a new anti-HER2 therapy, and was approved to slow disease progression in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, when used in combination with two other cancer drugs.
  • Bosulif was approved for patients diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). CML is a blood and bone marrow disease that usually affects older adults. Most people with CML have a genetic defect, called the Philadelphia chromosome, which causes the bone marrow to make an enzyme called tyrosine kinase. This enzyme triggers the development of too many abnormal and unhealthy white blood cells, interfering with their ability to fight infection. Bosulif works by blocking the signal of the tyrosine kinase that causes the abnormal and unhealthy white bloods cells to grow. Bosulif can be taken orally.

Michelle Taymuree, Pharm.D, MBA is Director of Pharmacy with Diablo Valley Oncology at the California Cancer and Research Institute in Pleasant Hill. The practice specializes in comprehensive, cutting edge treatment of all forms of cancer and blood disorders. They provide private suites for outpatient infusion and Michelle counsels patients on their medications. She can be reached at 925-677-5041.