The most welcome news a cancer patient can hear from their doctor is: "Your tumor is regressing." Sadly, the message that the Food and Drug Administration is now delivering to cancer patients is that the fight against tumors is regressing.
Current FDA policies are discouraging the development of groundbreaking treatments for cancer and other killer diseases, turning the clock back on hard-won regulations put in place in response to the AIDS crisis that allow patients faster access to new drugs. Case in point: This week, facing rejection by the Agency, GPC Biotech withdrew its New Drug Application (NDA) for Satraplatin, a drug to treat prostate cancer — despite data from a large controlled clinical trial showing the drug delayed tumor growth in patients where the disease is widespread.
Most of the patients in this study had exhausted all known therapies; many required powerful medication to control bone pain. Time is running out for them, yet results from this statistically significant study were not sufficient for the FDA. Although GPC Biotech’s application for Satraplatin was under consideration for accelerated approval, the Agency indicated it would need to wait for full survival data from this trial, which will delay approval at least one year.
Sadly, far from being an aberration, Satraplatin is the fifth promising cancer treatment set back by the FDA this year.
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For patients with life-threatening diseases and their families, the implications of the FDA’s recent regressive trend are devastating. It may be acceptable for regulators to be risk-averse when considering drugs for routine or nonserious diseases where alternative therapies exist. But this mindset is simply irrational when it comes to drugs intended to treat patients suffering from deadly diseases — people who often have only weeks or months to live.
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