A recent UCLA working paper reveals that publicly funded cancer research profoundly influences drug company testing decisions and, thereby, accelerates private sector decision-making toward the most promising treatments and away from costly failures. These publicly-funded studies generate genetic information, leading to improved patient outcomes derived from advanced clinical trialsnot to mention greater return on private sector investment in biopharmaceutical ventures.

The Study

Authored by Jennifer Kao, the study probes 168 commercial large-scale research projects linking specific gene mutations to specific cancers. The study findings, overwhelmingly publicly funded, were systematically publicized to promote more research into cancer diagnosing, treatments and cures. The UCLA-based author factored in biopharmaceutical company investment in Phase II drug trials for specific cancers from 2004 to 2016, before and after the projects, and related gene cancer pairs, reports the UCLA Anderson Review

Publicly-Funded Research Healthy for Private Sector

Data from publicly-funded projects increase the likelihood that a drug company will pursue a Phase II clinical trial for related disease by nearly 50%. Put another way, industry sponsors would run 97 fewer clinical trials and there would be 15 less actual cancer therapy approvals without such publicly-related drug research activity.

Public Research Identifies Connected Cancers

Public research data promotes greater knowledge in cancer, including a better understanding of the similarities in cancers once thought to be distantly related—this suggests that the two different cancers could be susceptible to the same drugs reports, UCLA Anderson Review. The researchers found an example with prostate cancer: it is caused by a gene mutation commonly associated with a gene mutation seen in breast cancer.

Drug Companies Benefit

Consequently, drug companies can now potentially repurpose older drugs that can be applied to new use cases—e.g. where the two cancers may have a similar genetic mutationm such as the prostate and breast cancer example. Based on publicly-funded research, the likelihood that companies would commence new clinical trials increases by 140%, reports UCLA Anderson Review. Moreover, if a drug failed clinical testing for effectiveness on one disease, industry sponsors, thanks to publicly-funded cancer research, are armed with more intelligence to consider the drug for another possible treatment.

Gene Cancer Pairs Impact Costs

Human and corporate costs fall with the availability of gene-cancer pairs. Why? The companies are better informed and can stop discouraging trials earlier. This can save many hundreds of millions in the aggregate.

Publicly-Funded Research Leads to Superior Results

The UCLA research reveals that the cancer drugs that advance to Phase III are 40% more likely to be associated with improved patient survival rates and suggests better odds of FDA approval. However, the study ended before most of the drug testing was completed, so commercialization data is not available. But overall, the data reveals that when publicly available cancer research is utilized, the bar is raised for Phase III cancer trials in the private sector.

Human Genome Project Influence

Kao used the Human Genome Project as a model and basis for this study. Also, the Cancer Genome Atlas looked at the gene mutations that cause cancer. The findings of these types of publicly-driven studies are monumentally important, as Kao reveals in the work.

Public Projects Triggered Investment in Related Cancers

The UCLA study author, an associate professor at the prestigious public university, suspects that biopharmaceutical companies invested millions more in clinical trials for drugs designed to treat related cancers based on the publicly available research data identifying pairs and the like. For example, the Cancer Genome Atlas Project released data identifying BCRA gene mutations underlying over 300 ovarian cancer tumors. The UCLA-driven researchers believe that this kind of information helped shaped industry sponsors’ decisions to invest in clinical programs involving patients with the BRCA gene mutations.

Savings in Hard Currency

The UCLA author believes that public cancer research and the associated intelligence available saved sponsors considerable amount of money and time. The industry is well aware of how costly it can be to develop a drug—on average 10 years and $2.6 billion. Only 12% of drugs that commence clinical trials ever get commercialized.

U.S. Public Investment in Cancer Research

U.S. taxpayers help fund this public research, primarily via the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which ultimately helps guide industry sponsors, should this research be accurate—and based on our knowledge and experience at TrialSite News, we believe Ms. Kao is on to something.  The NCI is the main coordinating entity for distributing taxpayer-funded research. Their 2019 budget is $5.94 billion. Overall, the Kao research reveals the importance of publicly funded cancer research. It appears to be making a big difference, and the breakthroughs in cancer treatment over the past decade have been monumental.

Lead Research/Investigator

Jennifer Kao, Assistant Professor of Strategy

Source: UCLA Anderson Review

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