Combination chemotherapy has been at the forefront of cancer treatment for over 40 years. However, the rationale for selecting drug combinations and the process used to demonstrate clinical effectiveness has primarily followed trial and error methodology. Typically, the selection and assessment of combined drug therapies has been based on the effectiveness of each agent as monotherapy in treating the neoplasm and avoiding overlapping toxicities, followed by clinical trials to establish dose scheduling, toxicity, and efficacy. Unfortunately, this scheme is inefficient in terms of the time required to complete and revise these clinical trials based on the outcome to optimize the drug combination. A more rational approach for the development of combination oncology products should consider (i) in vitro assays for assessing therapeutic effects of drug combinations (antagonistic, additive or synergistic interactions) when added simultaneously; (ii) methods for measuring these interactions in vivo; (iii) the importance of understanding pharmacokinetic and biodistribution parameters when using drug combinations; (iv) the need to assess pathways known to contribute to cancer cell survival as well as metastasis; and (iv) the need to assess the fate of different cell populations (cancer and stroma) contributing to the development of cancer. Therefore, the goal of this article is to provide a road map for the preclinical development of drug combination products that will have improved therapeutic activity and a high likelihood of providing beneficial therapeutic outcomes in patients with aggressive cancers with a specific focus on patients with breast cancer.
Keywords: Cancer, combination treatment, targeted agents, preclinical development, chemotherapy
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