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When the first results from patient trials appeared on Dr. Daniel Vasella's desk in April 1999, the chairman and CEO of Novartis sensed that an important chapter of medical history was about to be rewritten. The results indicated that Gleevec, the tiny orange capsule -- the development of which he had spearheaded -- was working wonders to arrest a life-threatening form of blood cancer. Here, for the first time, Dr. Vasella recounts the step-by-step challenges of bringing this revolutionary medicine to market and producing it in large enough quantities to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families everywhere in the world.
The leaders of major pharmaceutical companies rarely speak out so candidly and comprehensively about their businesses, but in this unique, groundbreaking book Dr. Vasella takes us behind the scenes and reveals the enormous pressures, the heavy costs, and the high risks involved in betting heavily on a drug like Gleevec -- regardedby many as the most exciting cancer breakthroughdiscovery yet -- while staying focused on the ultimate goal of saving lives.
In this clear and exciting account, Dr. Vasella explains why Gleevec is nothing less than a scientific breakthrough, one that medical experts believe already is revolutionizing cancer therapy. For decades the standard way to combat cancer has been to remove it surgically and/or to use toxic drugs or radiation to destroy cancer cells. But these techniques also attack normal tissues and frequently leave patients overwhelmingly weak. Side effects can be so severe that patients even die from therapy. In contrast, Gleevec is the first "designer drug" for cancer therapy, specifically targeting a cancer-producing molecule and "fixing" the malfunction, leaving healthy cells intact. It is hoped that Gleevec will be a paradigm for other molecularly targeted drugs that will work on cancers with larger patient populations, and the implications of this are enormous.
Magic Cancer Bullet is the first authoritative account of how Gleevec was developed and produced; of how on May 10, 2001 it won the swiftest passage from the Food and Drug Administration ever for a cancer drug; of how, even now, it is changing the lives and outlooks of patients everywhere, bringing hope in bleak and dire circumstances. From his unique vantage point as the man who guided this lifesaving "magic cancer bullet" from the laboratory to the pharmacy, Dr. Daniel Vasella gives us an insider's account of the scientists, the Novartis executives, and the Gleevec patients on this remarkable journey and he shows why the story of Gleevec is an intriguing part of the search for a cure to the scourge of cancer, one of the greatest human afflictions of our time.
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