Sixteen cancer drugs have been added to the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines. Among those recommended are high-cost medicines including imatinib, to treat leukemia; trastuzumab, to treat early and advanced stage breast cancer; and rituximab for lymphomas and leukemia, according to the April 2015 Report of the 20th WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines.
Other lower-cost recommended cancer medicines included bendamustine for leukemia; capecitabine to treat colon, colorectal, breast and rectal cancers; and cisplatin, to treat a variety of cancers including ovarian and testicular, according to the report.
Lawrence Shulman, MD, chief of staff and director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Center for Global Cancer Medicine, coordinated more than 90 cancer experts worldwide in 2014 to determine which cancer drugs should be added to the list, according to a news release. Julie Torode, deputy CEO of the Union for International Cancer Control in Geneva, Switzerland, where WHO is located, also joined the effort. Multiple treatment protocols were authored or peer-reviewed by Dana-Farber oncologists, the news release stated.
“Without drastic improvements in access to essential cancer medicines, poor countries will continue to be ill-equipped to care for their cancer patients,” Shulman said in the release. “Many diseases can be readily cured with affordable chemotherapy, and making these available to more patients around the world has to be one of our visions.
Cancer drugs added to the WHO list this year also include anastrazole, all-trans retinoid acid, bicalutamide, filgrastim, f1udarabine, gemcitabine, irinotecan, leuprorelin, oxaliplatin and vinorelbine, bringing the total list of essential cancer drugs to 46, according to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“It has been a privilege to work alongside colleagues from around the world, and many here at Dana-Farber, on expanding the WHO’s list of cancer drugs,” Shulman said in the release. “It is our hope that these recommendations will be valuable and impactful and will facilitate countries’ abilities to make essential cancer medicines available to their people.”
The WHO list of essential medicines also includes drugs to treat HIV infections, tuberculosis and hepatitis, among other adult and childhood diseases. The list has been updated every two years since 1977, according to WHO.
To comment, email [email protected]