Big Pharma Including GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly and Company Bets on a Novel Cancer Cure, Payoff Could be in the Billions

Published: May 16, 2011

Drug companies have long hawked cancer treatments that either kill tumors outright with chemotherapy or use pricey medicines to block the mutated genes that fuel cancer's growth. Recently, drugmakers including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Eli Lilly (LLY), and Novartis (NVS) have begun chasing a third approach: reprogramming the aberrant DNA that can turn cells cancerous in the first place. These new drugs exploit the epigenome, the molecular machinery that cells use to turn genes on and off, telling them when to produce proteins that carry out most functions of life. Celgene (CELG) last year generated $534 million in revenue on its epigenetic compound Vidaza, which adds months of life for patients with a leukemia-type disorder. The approach has led to three other approved blood cancer drugs from Japan's Eisai, Merck (MRK), and Celgene.

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