Rushing into head & neck; Putting Abarelix to the test

Although head and neck cancer is a particularly devastating condition, oncologists have seen no new treatment options for 20 years. The void is now being filled by a growing number of competitors vying to replace traditional surgery, radiation and chemotherapy as the standard of care.

First to market are likely to be a palliative photodynamic therapy from Scotia Holdings plc (LSE:SOH, Stirling, U.K.) and Matrix Pharmaceutical Inc.'s IntraDose formulation of cisplatin/epinephrine. Down the list are numerous Phase III and Phase II trials of biologics and gene therapies, the most advanced of which will complete Phase III trials in 2001. All these products have higher tolerability and better safety than traditional treatments and have been shown to produce responses in patients with recurrent disease. However, at least initially, the biologics will be paired with chemotherapy and radiation instead of replacing them.

Head and neck cancer is comprised of squamous cell carcinomas of the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx. Harlan Waksal, executive vice president and COO of ImClone Systems Inc. (IMCL, New York, N.Y.), estimated the size of the market in the U.S. at 40,000 new cases per year. IMCL is conducting two Phase III trials of

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