March 29, 2007
The Genetic Basis of Cancer Drug Brand Names
The FDA has just approved GlaxoSmithKline’s new breast cancer drug, Tykerb®. The “kerb” suggests “curb” as in “hold back.” Curbing the spread of cancer is certainly a good thing.
The roots of the name go deep into biochemistry, which is not friendly territory for consumers, but very common in Pharma naming. In case you couldn’t tell, the origin of the name comes from its use to treat cancers involving the tyrosine kinase receptor ErbB2.
This drug brand name seems chosen to appeal to oncologists rather than cancer patients, who could hardly be aware of the Tykerb® brand name. Apart from the biochemists who created the drug, medical specialists are the only people likely to know what tyrosine kinase is and why receiving it should be an issue.
But to those who understand the relationship between tyrosine kinase and cell reproduction, “Tykerb®” makes it clear which cancers the drug is meant to treat.
That doesn’t give the name any more aesthetic appeal, however. GlaxoSmithKline’s oral chemotherapy drug, Xeloda®, has a much nicer ring to it, belying the fact that there’s nothing pretty about chemotherapy. Tykerb® is designed to be used in combination with Xeloda®.
Taken together, those names are quite a mouthful.
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