Researchers develop an innovative and more cost-effective method to make cancer drugs

8 Mar 2019
Researchers develop an innovative and more cost-effective method to make cancer drugs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants the pharmaceutical industry to get away from making drugs using the traditional batch method and switch to a more modern process known as continuous manufacturing.

In a statement written by the FDA, it was explained that the continuous process allows manufacturers to more easily scale operations to meet demand and should help reduce drug shortages.

The statement also said continuous manufacturing can provide a more robust, lower cost and diverse supply of drug products.

David H. Thompson, a professor in Purdue's Department of Chemistry and a member of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research, has written a research paper published in Organic Process Research and Development about how to make a generic form of lomustine.

This drug is usually prescribed to patients with Hodgkin lymphoma and certain brain cancers.

But the continuous manufacturing process described in the paper is not just limited to lomustine and can be applied to many other products.

The ability to reduce production costs has the potential to allow for more agile and cost-effective production of many life-saving medicines. 

The goal is to improve manufacturing flexibility, enhance quality and uniformity, while lowering the costs for patients.

This is especially important for achieving the anticipated benefits of personalised and regenerative medicines that target tiny patient populations that currently make their manufacture on large-scale cost-prohibitive.

Continuous manufacturing is an alternative to "batch" production where the drug product is produced continuously through a sequence of coupled flow reactors.

Thompson and his team selected continuous manufacture for lomustine production because of improved quality monitoring throughout the manufacturing process.

In addition, this approach can also reduce production costs by utilising a safer and smaller production facility.

Thompson began working on applying his innovative continuous manufacturing process for lomustine after learning that the cost of lomustine had risen dramatically.

"We have to help the people impacted by this problem. We must show how to make lomustine quickly and cheaply, to provide an alternative for people in need," Thompson said.

Within six months, Thompson's team developed a method to make lomustine at a rate equivalent to one dose every two hours using continuous manufacture.

His group are now developing methods to scale up the production rate.

"All of this is happening in a space that is the size of a small desk. A very small footprint," Thompson added.

The researchers have also filed for a patent on their continuous synthesis process of lomustine production. 

Source: Purdue University