Research-based companies operating in the US continue to pile their R&D dollars into oncology, to judge by the latest ‘Medicines in Development’ report from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

The survey found a total of 750 medicines either in human clinical trials or awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cancer indications.

Despite the progress achieved in tackling cancer over the last decade, it remains the number two cause of death by disease in the US, exceeded only by heart disease. Some 565,650 Americans – more than 1,500 a day – are expected to die of cancer this year, PhRMA points out.

The new list of drugs in development or under FDA review includes 110 therapies for lung cancer, the leading cause of oncology deaths in the US; 90 for breast cancer, which more than 180,000 American women are expected to develop this year; 64 for colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer in both men and women in the US; and 88 for prostate cancer, which is projected to kill more than 28,000 American men during 2008.

Other medicines on the list target brain, kidney, ovarian, pancreatic, skin and other cancers. It also includes drugs designed to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. A total of 204 medicines are under development or review for solid tumours (some of the drugs on the list are included in more than one category).

According to IMS data (MAT June 2007), worldwide oncology sales have more than doubled over the last five years to US$37.5 billion. IMS expects the market to reach an estimated US$79 billion by 2011, showing compound annual growth rate of 18-20% and dominating the therapeutic landscape.