Purdue University chemistry professor creates device to combat cancer drug cost

A Purdue University professor is working to resolve the issue of cancer drug shortages. This could mean more money in the pocket for cancer patients and their families.

Posted: Nov 10, 2019 11:53 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A Purdue University professor is working to resolve the issue of cancer drug shortages. This could mean more money in the pocket for cancer patients and their families.

“This is our bike with training wheels, this is our way to essentially learn how to do continuous manufacture,” said Purdue University Department of Chemistry Professor David H. Thompson.

Continuous drug manufacturing may lie within this professor's cancer drug machine. Thompson said it could be more effective than what's currently being done.

“What's typically done right now for making pharmaceutical ingredients, which is stopping at step one, doing an analysis, a verification then moving on to step two that's much more, I guess segmented,” said Thompson.

While this process is thorough, manufacturing a drug in segments can be costly. Thompson's device will work to build the drug using one machine, he compares the process to a conveyor belt.

“The output of the first step is going directly into the second step and the output of the second step is going directly into the third step and so that it's continuous and the crystalline drug product is what comes out the end of this process,” said Thompson.

Thompson said there are several drugs in the U.S. that are partially produced using a continuous method. But his device could be the first fully synthesized machine if it gets FDA approval.

“What the FDA wants to see is that it's safe, that it's pure and that it's safe,” said Thomspon.

Right now Professor Thompson and his class are testing a cancer drug called Lomustine. It's used to battle brain cancer. So far, they're finding success.

“To go from having no idea about what the molecule was to actually produce it at a rate of the equivalent of one dose every two hours,” said Thompson.

Thompson said the machine is able to make enough in one-hour to treat a cancer patient for a six-week regimen. He believes this testing process will take another year before they move on to clinical trials.

Lomustine is a cancer drug on the FDA shortage list. Once they're testing on this drug passes, they're looking to test the other drugs on the list including, dexamethasone, dexrazoxane, leucovorin, and methotrexate.

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