FDA approves new medullary thyroid cancer drug

Exelixis' Cometriq second new drug for disease in two years

SILVER SPRING, Md. — The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug made by Exelixis for treating thyroid cancer, the agency said.

The FDA announced the approval of Cometriq (cabozatinib) to treat medullary thyroid cancer — a cancer that develops in cells in the thyroid gland that make calcitonin, a hormone that helps maintain a healthy level of calcium in the blood — that has spread to other parts of the body. Another drug to treat medullary thyroid cancer, AstraZeneca's Caprelsa (vandetanib), was approved last year.

"Cometriq is the second drug approved to treat medullary thyroid cancer in the past two years and reflects the FDA's commitment to the development and approval of drugs for treating rare diseases," FDA Office of Hematology and Oncology Products director Richard Pazdur said. "Prior to today's approval and the approval of Caprelsa in April 2011, patients with this rare and difficult-to-treat disease had limited therapeutic options."

The National Cancer Institute estimated that 56,460 Americans will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer — and 1,780 will die from it — in 2012.

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