Pharmaceutical companies in Germany lead in cancer drug development

The association that represents Germany's research-based pharmaceutical companies, the vfa, reports that its members are making strides in the fight against cancer. The vfa says that 10 of its members are working in Germany to develop new cancer drugs, and that major advances are taking place in the treatment of leukemia, lung and skin cancer. The vfa attributes the successful R&D in part to the excellent cooperation between industrial and public research institutions that is a key characteristic of the German economy.

Illustration "leukemie"; Source: fotolia/Sebastian Kaulitzki
© fotolia/Sebastian Kaulitzki

Vfa managing director Birgit Fischer said, "The fight against cancer tops the agenda for medicine and society in the 21st century, making it a priority for pharmaceutical research as well. When it comes to the number of currently ongoing projects, no other area of treatment surpasses improving cancer therapy. That's true internationally, but for Germany in particular as well."

The drugs being developed range from chemical compounds, genetically engineered antibodies and cell therapies, and substances based on DNA/RNA. German researchers have been especially pioneering in the development of immunologically based effective ingredients that bind cancer cells and immune cells directly in order to destroy the cancer. They have also made great strides in using genetically altered cells to fight some cancers sustainably.

Fischer noted that the complexity of developing cancer drugs requires cooperation between a number of partners, including pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, public research institutions and hospitals as well as individual practices. She cited work that is being done in conjunction with the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg and the Lead Discovery Center established by the Max Planck Society. The vfa’s managing director added that Germany also made a major contribution in terms of clinical trials for new cancer drugs, saying that 42 percent of all the currently ongoing industry-initiated studies in Germany were dedicated to cancer medications.