Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of cells. It is a group of many related diseases. Normal cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. Cancer cells, however, continue to grow and divide, spreading to other parts of the body and accumulating in the form of tumors that destroy normal tissue. Cancer can affect almost any part of the body. Different types of cancer vary in their rates of growth, patterns of spread, and responses to different types of treatment. Nearly all cancers are caused by abnormalities in the genetic material of the transformed cells. These abnormalities may be due to the effects of environmental carcinogens, such as tobacco smoke, radiation, chemicals, or infectious agents. Other cancer-promoting genetic abnormalities may be randomly acquired through errors in DNA replication, or are inherited, and thus present in all cells from birth.
The Medical Need
According to the American Cancer Society, 7.6 million people worldwide died from cancer in 2007, making it the leading cause of death worldwide (13% of all deaths). There are several treatment options for cancer patients, and the success rates of each treatment vary significantly from one cancer type to another, from complete remission, to partial response, to no response at all. Every possible response to treatment, including a wide variety of adverse reactions (such as pain, hair loss, infection, blood clotting problems, renal and hepatic toxicity, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and many others) can be expected with cancer treatment. Although a desirable treatment would destroy cancer cells without harming normal cells, most therapy options available to date are far from being that selective. Rather, these therapies are designed to damage all the cells, with the goal of inflicting greater damage on cancer cells compared to the damage they cause to normal cells. This damage is typically brought about by affecting a cell's ability to grow.
Hence, without doubt there is an urgent unmet medical need for better and safer targeted cancer therapies. This medical need exists practically across all types of solid tumors. One of the major challenges in developing drugs for the treatment of major solid tumors is confronting the heterogeneity of the disease, recognizing that most cancer types are not one disease but multiple disorders with distinct processes. Nonetheless, even very different solid tumors, such as non-small-cell lung cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, and glioblastoma, share some underlying molecular mechanism. It is therefore highly desirable to identify common underlying molecular mechanism, such that by targeting them one could develop a drug that will be efficacious for several tumor types (albeit not all of them).
Thus, there is a significant unmet medical need to develop more effective therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer, with better efficacy and lower toxicity for improving the quality of life of patients and their families.