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Hard Work, High Price


AstraZeneca has recently gotten a targeted cancer drug — vandetanib, for the treatment of a rare form of thyroid cancer — approved, but it has taken years of trying, says Forbes' Matthew Herper. Despite the approval, the restrictions on the medicine could make it difficult to sell, and might raise the price. Vandetanib failed in trials for non-small-cell lung cancer and bladder cancer before proving effective in thyroid cancer, Herper says, and this highlights the difficulties most companies have with making targeted cancer pills. Novartis has managed to profit with Gleevec, but that's a rare success story. "Now, with vandetanib, AstraZeneca will be facing even more hurdles. Because vandetanib affects the electrical activity of the heart, potentially lethally, it is being sold under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. Doctors and pharmacies will have to be specially certified to dispense the drug," Herper says. "Pricing information was not immediately available, but given the restricted use and small population of patients who might use the drug, the price is likely to be high."

The Scan

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

US Survey Data Suggests Ancestry Testing Leads Way in Awareness, Use of Genetic Testing Awareness

Although roughly three-quarters of surveyed individuals in a Genetics in Medicine study reported awareness of genetic testing, use of such tests was lower and varied with income, ancestry, and disease history.

Coral Genome Leads to Alternative Amino Acid Pathway Found in Other Non-Model Animals

An alternative cysteine biosynthesis pathway unearthed in the Acropora loripes genome subsequently turned up in sequences from non-mammalian, -nematode, or -arthropod animals, researchers report in Science Advances.

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.