FDA Approves New Cancer Drug From Agios Pharmaceuticals

Here’s a new ray of hope for those who are suffering from a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Agios Pharmaceuticals, a small biotech company, just got its first cancer drug approved by the FDA. Called Idhifa, the drug is created to treat acute myelogenous leukemia.

Idhifa or enasidenib treats the cancer of the blood and bone marrow by starving out cancer cells. It is created specifically for AML patients with an IDH2 mutation. AML is generally found in older people, usually those you are 45-years-old and above.

Business Insider explained that cancer cells have a different metabolism than normal cells, and knowing that metabolic process helps in targeting the cancer cells while leaving the healthy ones untouched.

A normal cell goes through a life cycle—baby stage, adult stage where they make babies, and old stage where they eventually die. On one hand, a cancer cell stays at the baby stage while making a lot of other baby cells. Agios’ Idhifa helps those cells to grow up and then die, CEO David Schenkein said.

Schenkein further explained that what their drug does is to identify and act on the enzymes that are key in the metabolism of the cancer cell. “There are 3,000 different metabolic enzymes in our cells, and cancers have found a way to screw up a lot of them,” he said.

Research on treatment using cancer metabolism is still at an early stage, and Dr. Anne Le, a professor at Johns Hopkins, reiterates that it is not simple. Over the coming years, cancer might be able to work around the new drugs. Schenkein, meanwhile, sees this as an opportunity because Agios is at the beginning of this field.

Agios Pharmaceuticals collaborated with Celgene Corporation in bringing Idhifa to patients. According to Celgene, the new cancer drug for acute myelogenous leukemia will have a monthly list price of $24,872. However, the actual cost out of the patient’s pocket would depend on their individual health care insurance, as well as the duration of the treatment. Celgene noted that the median time on therapy during the trial was at 4.3 months, as reported by Reuters.

Novartis AG also recently received the FDA’s approval for its AML drug, Rydapt. The cancer drug is designed for AML patients with a specific genetic mutation called FLT3.

[Featured Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK]