Predicting Progress: The Evolution of Cancer Research

A Point of View by Dr. Roger Dansey, Head of Merck’s oncology late stage development program

A real challenge in developing cancer drugs is that some patients who receive a medication for a particular cancer see excellent improvement while other patients, with the same cancer receiving the same drug, do not respond at all.

One of our key goals as drug developers is not only to find new medicines that work, but to determine which patients are more likely to respond and why those patients respond so well. This is especially important in our immuno-oncology work, where we are still early in our understanding of the multiple biological pathways that may come into play.

At Merck we are rapidly generating information that could give us insights about which medicines might work best for certain patients, and how additional testing of tumors may assist in guiding treatment options.

As part of this effort we are working closely with investigators and regulatory authorities on clinical trial designs that may provide answers to specific questions regarding tumor characteristics associated with response to treatment. We want to understand which cancers and which patients would be helped by this approach – and to understand when one medicine may be enough or a combination approach may be the way to go.

We are striving to get to a place that will allow us to offer treatments to patients that are most likely to benefit. That’s a challenge in a disease as incredibly complex as cancer, but it’s a challenge that we must meet head-on if we’re to continue making a difference in the lives of those impacted by this disease.

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