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The Clinical Development of Molecularly Targeted Agents in Combination With Radiation Therapy: A Pharmaceutical Perspective

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Aileen Taylor, Professor Steve Wedge


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This paper explores historical and current roles of pharmaceutical industry sponsorship of clinical trials testing radiation therapy combinations with molecularly targeted agents and attempts to identify potential solutions to expediting further combination studies. An analysis of clinical trials involving a combination of radiation therapy and novel cancer therapies was performed. Ongoing and completed trials were identified by searching the Web site, in the first instance, with published trials of drugs of interest identified through American Society of Clinical Oncology, European CanCer Organisation/European Society for Medical Oncology, American Society for Radiation Oncology/European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, and PubMed databases and then cross-correlated with protocols. We examined combination trials involving radiation therapy with novel agents and determined their distribution by tumor type, predominant molecular mechanisms examined in combination to date, timing of initiation of trials relative to a novel agent's primary development, and source of sponsorship of such trials. A total of 564 studies of targeted agents in combination with radiation therapy were identified with or without concomitant chemotherapy. Most studies were in phase I/II development, with only 36 trials in phase III. The tumor site most frequently studied was head and neck (26%), followed by non-small cell lung cancer. Pharmaceutical companies were the sponsors of 33% of studies overall and provided support for only 16% of phase III studies. In terms of pharmaceutical sponsorship, Genentech was the most active sponsor of radiation therapy combinations (22%), followed by AstraZeneca (14%). Most radiation therapy combination trials do not appear to be initiated until after drug approval. In phase III studies, the most common (58%) primary endpoint was overall survival. Collectively, this analysis suggests that such trials are not given priority by pharmaceutical companies. The potential reasons for this and some challenges and possible solutions are discussed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ataman OU, Sambrook SJ, Wilks C, Lloyd A, Taylor AE, Wedge SR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Radiation Oncology - Biology - Physics

Year: 2012

Volume: 84

Issue: 4

Pages: e447–e454

Print publication date: 15/11/2012

ISSN (print): 0360-3016

ISSN (electronic): 1879-355X

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2012.05.019

Notes: Presented as a poster at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), in Miami Beach, FL, October 2-6, 2011.


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