Please login to the form below

Not currently logged in

Personalised cancer medicines showcased in BBC investigation

Panorama looked at cutting-edge science and the new generation of oncology drugs

BBC Panorama cancer image

A new generation of cancer treatments from pharma firms including Novartis, Astellas and Bristol-Myers Squibb was highlighted by the BBC last night.

Panorama, which is the state-run station's flagship investigative journalism show, has traditionally given pharma a rough time, but 'Can you cure my cancer?' took a different approach.

The programme focussed predominately on the cutting-edge science coming from pharma, the NHS and academia to try and stop the disease - which now affects one in two people.

While early-stage cancers can usually be cured by radiotherapy and surgery, later stage forms of the disease that have spread to a number of organs is extremely difficult to tackle, with prognoses typically poor.

In the past decade new medicines have attempted to sharpen the 'blunt tool' of chemotherapy which, while killing cancerous cells, also kills healthy cells, causing severe side effects.

A new branch of cancer medicine, known as personalised treatment, is now at the forefront of treating metastasised forms of the disease with drugs typically offering fewer side effects and greater efficacy.

In the Panorama investigation, the editorial team spent two years filming at the Royal Marsden Hospital and its Institute of Cancer Research arm in London, and followed a number of patients using new medicines.

Targeted treatment

They included Sophie Armitage, a 10-year-old girl with a very rare form of lung cancer, who had failed on chemotherapy regimens and could not benefit from surgery.

Doctors at the Royal Marsden used Novartis' Zykadia (ceritinib/LDK378) to treat her cancer. This drug, a personalised treatment, targets the ALK genetic mutation that is responsible for Sophie's disease.

It has been approved in the USA for ALK positive non-small cell lung cancer, but is still awaiting approval for this indication in Europe, meaning the doctors have been using it off-label for Sophie's trial.

She is now responding to the treatment where she had not been to other interventions, and doctors have a positive outlook on her prognosis.

BBC Panorama cancer research 

Growing the arsenal

There was also a focus in the trials on combination therapies, as the future of helping patients with highly metastasised forms of their cancer is likely to involve using a number of treatments at the same time.

Astellas and Medivation's advanced prostate cancer drug Xtandi (enzalutamide) was highlighted being used with Bayer's Xofigo (Radium Ra 223 Dichloride) for an elderly patient with late-stage prostate cancer who has had years added to his life.

And the Royal Marsden also combined Bristol-Myers Squibb's two new advanced immunotherapy melanoma drugs Yervoy (ipilimumab) and Opdivo (nivolumab) - the latter approved in the USA in December and apart of the UK's new early access to medicines programme.

Royal Marsden patient Vicky Brown's melanoma was found only after it had spread to her breast and lungs and until recently, the life expectancy for patients with such advanced disease was around six months.

But BMS's treatments, which 'teach' the body to kill cancer cells (but not healthy cells), has for the first time in 40 years increased overall survival rates for melanoma.

There is a cost however - Vicky had to come off the trial early as she developed hepatitis and meningitis - but she remains clear of cancer after more than a year.

To watch the programme, please use the BBC iPlayer service (only available for UK users and available for 11 months from February 2015)

Article by
Ben Adams

12th February 2015

From: Research, Healthcare



COVID-19 Updates and Daily News

Featured jobs


Add my company
Bedrock Group

Bedrock Healthcare Communications is a privately owned, award winning communications agency that creates and delivers highly effective, insight driven medical...

Latest intelligence

“Fake News” and Credibility in Medical Publishing
Natalie Yeadon from Impetus Digital shares her thoughts on fighting fake news in Pharma and healthcare....
Delivering true value: what does it mean for KAM in cancer care?
Lisa Alderson, Business Development Director at Wilmington Healthcare, explores the challenges that pharma’s KAM teams face in engaging with the NHS and how they must evolve...
Pharma M&A
Pharma funding and M&A in 2020
Why pharma M&A has continually bucked the trend...