Oncology Drug Discovery and Development

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AbbVie has a deep heritage in oncology research and the technology and approaches we are taking to advance cancer treatment are becoming foundational to the next generation of cancer treatment.  We research, validate, and target specific molecular pathways, allowing us to discover and develop innovative cancer therapies that aim to disrupt the natural progression of cancer cells. Our efforts combine a deep understanding of how cancer works with state-of-the-art technologies to deliver smarter solutions faster to the oncology community.

AbbVie’s research and development in oncology is focused on discovering novel pathways and targets with the goal of controlling and regulating cancer cells in various forms of both liquid and solid tumors. But we know it’s more than just the best science.  AbbVie recognizes we also need to expedite the clinical development process, including clinical trial designs, if we are going to address the significant unmet medical needs in oncology.

AbbVie is currently evaluating 13 compounds in more than 190 active clinical trials in various settings around the world as potential treatment options for 19 different types of cancer.  We have three world-class oncology research and development facilities focused on delivering breakthrough new approaches in the fight against cancer.

State-of-the-Art Research at AbbVie
Research and innovation are the cornerstones of business at AbbVie. As a global biopharmaceutical company, our discovery and development process begins with the patient. Our efforts are focused on cancers with high unmet medical need, where we believe we can make a meaningful difference for patients. Starting with patient needs helps us focus our efforts and keeps our eye on the goal – to help patients improve their health and their lives.

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Delivering Impact for Patients
To help cancer patients, we focus on efficiency: identifying ways to streamline the R&D process and investing in technologies and approaches that help us to more quickly advance promising treatments. Additionally, we are designing adaptive clinical trials, which help us to more rapidly establish proof of concept and determine the appropriate dose of an investigational medicine – making our clinical trials smarter, faster and more efficient.

We are also focusing on new methods, such as biochemical markers, imaging technologies and the use of definitive, clinical endpoints, which may help us more quickly evaluate the effectiveness of our oncology compounds.

Collaborative Approach
Our ability to discover and develop new compounds is enhanced by our use of integrated project teams, which include chemists, biologists, physicians and pharmacologists who work collaboratively on the same compounds. In addition, we partner with companies and organizations who are also undergoing research to develop new cancer treatment options.

Global Research
Our work in collaborating to outsmart cancer begins with our teams within AbbVie.  We have state-of-the-art research facilities dedicated to discovering and developing treatments that may have a positive impact on cancer patients’ lives. AbbVie’s research in oncology is conducted at AbbVie research facilities around the world, including, AbbVie headquarters in North Chicago, Ill., AbbVie in Redwood City, Calif., and Pharmacyclics an AbbVie company, in Sunnyvale, Calif.


 

Focus Areas

 

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Protein-Based Therapeutics

Protein engineering refers to the design and construction of synthetic proteins that have a desired function.1

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Small Molecules

Small molecules are compounds that have an effect on cell activity and are developed as therapeutics. They may be used to affect reprogramming, self-renewal or differentiation of various cell functions to which cancer cells are dependent on for growth and survival. At AbbVie, we are using our expertise to engineer small molecules with specific characteristics that aim to block the growth and/or spread of cancer cells.2

Apoptosis, otherwise known as programmed cell death, is an essential natural process that eliminates damaged, unneeded or dangerous cells from the body. As a cell undergoes apoptosis it breaks apart and the fragments are consumed by types of cells which protect the body by ingesting waste material, harmful microorganisms and other extra cellular material.3 In normal cells, apoptosis occurs by a sequence of molecular events and is caused by cellular stress or injury.3

 

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Biologic Therapeutics

Biologic therapies are substances derived from living organisms or laboratory-produced versions of such substances and may be used to treat cancer. Biological therapeutics that stimulate the body’s immune system to act against cancer cells are often referred to as immunotherapies and do not target cancer cells directly. Other biological therapies, such as antibodies, target cancer cells directly and interfere with specific cell process involved in tumor growth and progression. AbbVie uses the expertise of our scientists to research and develop both types of therapies.4

 

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Combination Technologies

One way to enhance the therapeutic potential of antibodies is to combine, or “conjugate”, them to small molecule drugs, which brings together the compound’s ability to target a specific antigen and the potential benefit of a combination drug.5 Another way to enhance the therapeutic potential of antibodies is to use a technology that allows the generation of a dual specific antibody to target two antigens (also called a dual variable domain antibody). 6


References

  1. Turanli-Yildiz B, Alkim C, Cakar ZP. Protein Engineering Methods and Applications. Protein Engineering. 2012;ISBN 9789535100379:33-58. Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/protein-engineering/protein-engineering-methods-and-applications.
  2. Discovery of small molecule cancer drugs: Successes, challenges and opportunities, Mol Oncol, Aprio 2012;6(2):155-176.
  3. Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Morgan, D., Raff, M., Roberts, K., & Walter, P. (2015). Cell death, Molecular biology of the cell (6th ed.). (pp. 1021-1034). New York, NY: Garland Science.
  4. National Cancer Institute FactSheet, Biological Therapies for Cancer: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/biological , accessed April 29, 2014.
  5. Sassoon I, Blanc V. Antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) clinical pipeline: a review. Methods Mol Biol. 2013;1045:1-27.
  6. Eigenbrot, C. & Fuh, G. Two-in-One antibodies with dual action Fabs. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology. 2013; 17: 400-405.

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