The numbers are somber. More than 138,000 U.S. patients and 1.4 million patients worldwide are struggling against malignant brain tumors. By the end of the year, another 256,000 will be diagnosed. For the most common primary tumor – glioblastoma – nine out of ten will lose control of their disease within five years.
Despite years of coordinated efforts by the scientific community, new experimental drugs continue to be ineffective against what is commonly considered the most difficult type of cancer to cure. From 1998 to 2014, at least 78 new brain tumor drugs were developed and tested in patients. Only three gained FDA approval.
Modern medical research continues to struggle with this deadly disease for a combination of reasons, including the biological complexity of these tumors, the inability of new drugs to penetrate brain tissue, and the infrequency of the disease compared to more prevalent human cancers. For these reasons and others, the pharmaceutical industry, which drives the vast majority of patient clinical trials worldwide, lists brain cancer as a relatively low priority in its experimental drug development programs.
There is a better way forward by focusing our academic, private, and industry efforts on the singular goal of tailoring new drug trials to patients and their individual tumor biologies. To this end, the Ivy Brain Tumor Center is leading a national campaign to rapidly identify effective new experimental therapies.