Specialist drugs are getting outwitted by cancer. Pan Pantziarka says a solution may be right under our noses
What are the main challenges you face getting repurposed drugs approved to treat cancer? The patents have expired on the majority of the drugs, so any drug company that invests in a clinical trial is not guaranteed to recoup that money because some other manufacturer could swoop in and sell the same drug at a lower price. Also, if the trial is successful, getting the drug licensed costs money. Secondly, very few of these drugs are going to be effective on their own: we are looking at using them in combination with standard therapies or other repurposed drugs. In that situation multiple companies are involved, which raises issues around cooperation. If you are doing a trial without a pharmaceutical company, there are logistical issues: you have to buy the drugs yourself and even cheap drugs aren’t that cheap. You also have to package up the placebo and the drug – so you have highly paid consultants shoving aspirin into unmarked containers.