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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of drug discovery and development stories.

Oral chemotherapy gets green light

Roche has secured approval from European regulatory authorities to market what it claims is the first oral chemotherapy medication for colon cancer patients able to be used as an adjuvant treatment post surgery. Data from the firm's X-ACT trial showed that Xeloda (capecitabine) is at least as effective as the current gold standard treatment - intravenous 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin - in terms of disease-free survival, yet it also demonstrated a superior reduction in the risk of cancer recurrences by some 14 per cent. The oral medication can also be taken by patients at home, which will enhance their regime and provide ìsignificant cost savingsî for health systems, the firm said. Patients taking Xeloda at home would only be required to attend eight hospital appointments on average, compared with a more costly 30 visit if treated with standard therapy.

Hopes abide on new obesity pill

Patients taking a new anti-obesity pill for 28 days lost 2.9lb (1.31kg) compared with just 0.7lb for patients on placebo, according to data from an ongoing trial of the product developed by Arena Pharmaceuticals. The drug has similarities to the Fen-Phen combination product, which was taken off the market after it was linked with cardiovascular-related deaths, in its mechanism of action - it stimulates the brain's hypothalamus. However, Arena's drug has a more targeted effect on the brain and having closely monitored participants' heart rates, the firm reported no serious side effects - some patients experienced headaches. There are more than 300 million clinically obese people worldwide.

Cancer drug wobble

Stock value at German pharma group Schering took a tumble on the disappointing news that its PTK/ZK experimental cancer product, developed jointly with Swiss firm Novartis, had failed to meet the main endpoint in a study. Schering's price had already fallen in March when it announced plans to delay filing for regulatory approval for PTK until 2007. Novartis focused on the presentation of the data at ASCO in Orlando. `Central review assessment of primary endpoint showed a 12 per cent reduction in risk that did not achieve statistical significance,' it noted. However, the firm remains positive about the oral therapy, which is designed to block the growth of blood and lymphatic vessels, as the trial showed a 40 per cent risk reduction in one specific patient population.

30th September 2008

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