Here’s a good news for the cancer patients. A drug that could melt away cancer cells has been approved for human use by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
Venetoclax, will be marketed as Venclexta, developed in Melbourne has been approved for stage-four chronic lymphocytic leukaemia patients.
The drug will be available for the patients who have not responded to the standard treatment or for those who have not been able to endure chemotherapy.
It blocks the action of protein, BCL-2 that enables cancer cells to survive. For more than 30 years, researchers have been finding a way to stop the protein.
One of the developers of the drug, Professor David Huang said the BCL-2 molecule found active in many types of cancers, especially in leukaemia.
He said, “It was thought that if we specifically target BCL-2 we might be able to cure cancer,” he said. So for many years researchers were able to figure out what BCL-2 did when it was overactive it prevented cancer cells from dying.”
Professor Huang added, “We designed the drug to specifically inhibit BCL-2 function and essentially it’s designed to trigger the cancer cells to commit cell suicide.”
He stated patients can take this drug as a tablet once a day. The cost of the drug is not known yet. Mr Huang said the process to place it on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme had begun.
He said, “As a scientist what you dream of is that what you do and work on the bench will make a difference for patients. I think it is incredibly exciting for us to see the many years of hard work into a difficult scientific problem being developed into a new drug and eventually benefiting patients.”
Dr Maryann Anderson, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre haematologist said since 2011 about 70% had received the drug. “What we found in our studies was that 80 per cent of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia will actually respond to this drug.”
She said approximately 20% of them will achieve a complete remission. “Most excitingly, we’re seeing that we’re getting very good responses amongst patients with the most high risk disease.”