A record 887 drugs and vaccines for various cancers are now in clinical trials or awaiting US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review, well over double the number that were in the pipeline just six years ago, says a new US report.

Products currently being developed by member-companies of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) include 98 for lung cancer - the leading cause of cancer death in the US - and 91 for breast cancer, which is expected to affect more than 200,000 women in the US every year, according to the industry group's latest report.

Products also in development include 80 new therapies for prostate cancer, which is estimated to cause the deaths of more than 32,000 American men each year, and 55 for colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer in both men and women in the US.

Moreover, 108 products are now in development for leukaemia, 97 for lymphoma, 65 for skin cancer, 49 each for multiple myeloma and ovarian cancer, and 31 each for cancer of the kidney and liver, it adds. 

When PhRMA released its first accounting of medicines in development for cancer in 1988, only 65 were recorded, the industry group notes. Numbers over the next decade grew, but gradually; as recently as 2005, fewer than 400 medicines were in development for cancer, it adds.

The increase is due to "unprecedented insights into how cancer cells develop, grow and spread," which are "providing new targets and new ways of attacking the disease," says PhRMA chief executive John Castellani. 

Among the innovative new cancer-fighting treatments currently in development are: - a medicine that interferes with the metabolism of cancer cells by depriving them of energy from glucose; - a product designed to induce a powerful immune response to melanoma; - a potential first-line treatment and first-in-class treatment designed to target pacific cancer cells and kill them, then activate the patient's general immune system to destroy any remaining cancer cells; and - a therapy that enhances the delivery of medicine to the patient, overcoming obstacles in existing treatments, says the report.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that cancer deaths in the US decreased 1.6% per year during 2001-6, while the number of survivors of the disease grew from 3 million in 1971 to 11.7 million, with the rising survival levels being due in large part to earlier diagnosis and detection and better treatments and follow-up care, says PhRMA.