Race Oncology on ABC TV News

Race Oncology on ABC TV News


The Australian microbiologist who fended off
a big pharmaceutical company and made Betadine a household name here has now set
his sights on drugs for rare cancers. These medicines are overlooked or discarded
by large companies because there aren’t enough profits in them. Peter Molloy is the man who brought Betadine
to Australia in 1984, taking on big pharmaceutical companies in the United States to transform
a hospital antiseptic into the over the counter throat gargle. The American company behind it saw it really
as a hospital antiseptic, but I saw it as something that could treat
sore throats for example. It’s now the largest selling throat gargle
in the country, but has never made its way onto shelves in America. I think what it speaks to is the sort of constrained
thinking that you see in big companies. More than 30 years later he’s still taking
on the big end of town, setting up a company to commercialise drugs
Big Pharma doesn’t want. There are many of these drugs out there that
have just been overlooked by Big Pharma, particularly as a result of mergers and often because the
drug doesn’t meet a substantial market opportunity and yet it could still solve some important
medical problems. Bisantrene is the first drug in his sights. It was first discovered four decades ago in
the U.S. and despite 40 clinical trials involving 2,000 patients it never made it to market. The tests showed it was most beneficial for
treating Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a rare blood cancer which affects around 40,000 people
worldwide. For the parents of Perth boy Kai Nell, plans
for the drug are bittersweet. Their son lost his battle with the disease
in January. They threw everything they had at it. It’s only as you get into the process and
months and years down the line that you start to research and find out just how little there
is going into research for new drugs. It’s really promising that there is something
there that somebody is grabbing hold of. The condition has also plagued Australian
Pro Golfer Jarrod Lyle. He was first diagnosed in 1998 and has just
relapsed for a second time. Bisantrene is one that can benefit people
with AML and it would be nice to have a big pharmaceutical company look at that and go
right let’s start getting this out in the market and making it more
accessible for AML patients. While rarer cancers affect far fewer people
they account for more than half of cancer related deaths. Peter Molloy is hoping to first get the drug
approved for use on compassionate grounds in Europe. Kathryn Diss, ABC News

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