Drugs Approved By the FDA for Blood Cancers in 2014 Show Lack of Progress by Pharmaceutical Industry

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In 2014, Dr. Richard Pazdur and the Office of Oncology Drug Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved six drugs for hematologic cancers.

Unfortunately, the six drugs approved are only indicated to treat the following three subtypes:

  • Peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL), one new drug
  • Acute lymphoblastic lymphoma (ALL), two new drugs
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), three new drugs

To make matters worse, these drugs will serve extremely small patient populations. Together, the three diseases account for about 30,000 new diagnoses each year (ALL: 5,000, PTCL: 10,000, CLL: 15,000). The approval of another three drugs to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia illustrates the utter absence of innovation or imagination at major pharmaceutical companies, since every CLL drug (there are now seven) simply piggy-backs on the success of Novartis' Gleevec.

Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma

DRUG: Belinostat (Beleodaq)
APPROVAL TYPE: Accelerated
INDICATION: Patients with relapsed or refractory peripheral T-cell lymphoma.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

DRUG: Mercaptopurine (Purixan) in oral suspension in combination with other drugs.
APPROVAL TYPE: Standard
INDICATION: Treatment of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

DRUG: Blinatumomab (Blincyto)
APPROVAL TYPE: Accelerated
INDICATION: Treatment of patients with Philadelphia chromosome-negative relapsed or refractory B-cell ALL.

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

DRUG: Ibrutinib (Imbruvica)
APPROVAL TYPE: Accelerated
INDICATION: Treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) with a history of at least one prior therapy.

DRUG: Ofatumumab (Arzerra) in combination with chlorambucil
APPROVAL TYPE: Standard
INDICATION: Treatment of patients with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) for whom fludarabine-based therapy is not appropriate.

DRUG: Idelalisib (Zydelig) in combination with rituximab
APPROVAL TYPE: Standard
INDICATION: Patients with relapsed CLL for whom rituximab alone would be considered appropriate therapy because of existing comorbidities.

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