As follows, here is a list of new cancer drugs that show especial promise.

Herceptin or trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody to the HER2 receptor and a recent innovation in breast cancer treatment.  In those who have the mutation specific to it, Herceptin can work impressively well.  At $100,000 per year of treatment, however, it comes at a cost.

Sutent or Sunitinib is an interesting new medication that disrupts the activity of multiple tyrosine kinases.  More non-specific than many other similar medications, it has shown significant efficacy for treating renal cancer as well as a back-up for gastrointestinal stromal cancer.

Erbitux is an antibody to the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor, which means it has similar activity to other medications discussed here.  It may play a role in treating colorectal cancer and was recently discovered to increase by 20% objective survival when used in head and neck cancers, the first successful, new treatment in 30 years.

Arimidex and Femara are members of the aromatase inhibitors.  Very recent studies have shown their superior efficacy to the traditional treatment of tamoxifen for preventing breast cancer recurrence in post-menopausal women.  Best of all, Arimidex is about to go off patent.  That said, it is important to note that we do not know as much as we’d like about their long term side effects compared to tamoxifen.

Tarceva or erlotinib is a new treatment for non-small cell lung cancer.  It is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is fairly specific for the epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor.  In terms of efficacy, however, it is not that great.  It may work best in patients who have a mutation in the EGF receptor, which may mean genetic tests to guide use.

Olaparib is a PARP inhibitor that works to prevent cells from repairing damage to their DNA.  (Note that it’s not a nib).  As many chemotherapies work by causing DNA damage in some form, this medication may increase the efficacy of traditional treatment.  Olaparib is being especially investigated for use in women with BRCA1 or 2 mutations who have more aggressive cancer than normal.

Gleevec or imatinib is commonly viewed as one of the most exciting new medications because it is highly effective for treating CML, chronic myeloid leukemia, as well as possibly other cancers.  Gleevec was hailed as a victory for scientific research because it was discovered by systematically screening chemicals for effectiveness in targeting cancer-related pathways.

While CML is somewhat rare, Gleevec comes at a very high cost, raising the question of corporate greed.