Copyright © 2014, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Innovations in 2015 brought promise, hope for some patients
Q: What innovation made the biggest impact last year?
A: Hepatitis C drugs. Led by Gilead’s Sovaldi, which shattered the record for first-year sales of any drug in history, these novel therapeutics are transforming the treatment landscape for the viral liver disease. They’re easy to take, carry few side effects, and deliver cure rates of 90 percent and above. In essence, they could wipe out a disease that affects an estimated 3 million Americans, including 30,000 Oklahomans. The only catch: price tags of nearly $100,000.
Q: Were there any big developments in cancer?
A: In clinical trials, a new class of drugs known as immunotherapeutics were shown to be effective in using the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells. Although the trials have been small, the treatments have worked extremely well in patients with advanced melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. Researchers believe these results, which extended patients’ lives by years, could hold true in many other forms of cancer.
Q: How about Alzheimer’s?
A: The news was mixed here. In the first large-scale trial of a treatment aimed at stopping Alzheimer’s in its early stages, an experimental drug failed to make headway. But in December, drugmaker Biogen Idec announced promising results for another novel Alzheimer’s treatment; the company now plans a larger test in patients who show mild symptoms or markers of the disease.
Q: What can we expect in 2015?
A: Biotechnology and pharmaceutical development is focused on two areas right now. The first is personalized therapies, mostly targeting specific types of cancer. This is a field we’re working on at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, in conjunction with the Stephenson Cancer Center. The second major focus for biopharma is drugs for so-called orphan diseases, which affect very small numbers of patients. In 2015, expect to see a variety of new treatments in both of these classes.
— Paula Burkes, Oklahoman Business writer