Cancer treatment has evolved greatly in the past fifty years. Since the introduction of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplants, tens of thousands of cancer patients have been victorious in battle. All of these advances have impacted cancer treatment, but a recent drug approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may have been the beginning for a new wave of treatment.
The future of cancer treatment made an extraordinary stride forward when the FDA approved the use of Vitrakvi. Vitrakvi, the tradename for the chemical compound larotrectinib, will treat cancers based on a genetic mutation rather than the location of the cancer. This means that instead of, say, exclusively treating breast cancer, colon cancer or stomach cancer, Vitrakvi could treat any cancer that has a specific mutation. The mutation that can be treated involves TRK genes. While these genes are quite rarely found in tumors, they are a major component in cancer cell growth when present.
Before the creation of Vitrakvi, there was only one other drug on the market that used this targeted approach. Keytruda, the other mutation-focused treatment was originally approved only to treat melanoma that had spread. However, the makers of Keytruda were able to demonstrate to the FDA that its use should be expanded as a treatment for various other cancers in other locations of the body, so long as certain genetic preconditions existed.
A spokesperson for the FDA stated that prior to the creation of Vitrakvi, there had been no treatment for cancers that express the specific TRK mutation. With the approval of Vitrakvi, there is now treatment for mammary analogue secretory carcinoma, cellular or mixed congenital mesoblastic nephroma and infantile fibrosarcoma.
While the FDA approval of Vitrakvi is a great success for cancer patients and loved ones, the drug’s high price tag still leaves much to be desired. Bayer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, was given licensing rights to Vitrakvi, and it’s expected to cost $393,600 each year. The drug is also available in a pediatric syrup priced at approximately $11,000 per month.
Despite the hefty price tag, Bayer remains confident that no patient will pay over $20 out of pocket for the drug. And the company has stated that no eligible patient would go without this highly effective drug.
With the proven effectiveness of Keytruda and Vitrakvi, it is anticipated that targeting genetic mutations will be a future characteristic of cancer treatment. These treatments are still not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to managing cancer cells. However, with continued genetic mutation research and drug development, being able to cure cancers of every kind becomes more of a reality.