GSK appoints InChord for global cancer drug drive

PHILADELPHIA, US: GlaxoSmithKline has installed global agency backing for its stable of cancer treatments as it seeks to gain a foothold in a market dominated by firms such as Roche, Sanofi-Aventis and Pfizer.

Ohio-based agency InChord has bagged the global comms brief for GSK's pipeline oncology products, including Tykerb, a potential blockbuster breast cancer treatment and possible rival to Roche's Herceptin.

Tonic Life Communications, an affiliate of InChord, will handle PR in Europe. The London-based agency, which also represents the Federation of European Cancer Societies, will handle work at international conferences as well as UK patient advocacy.

InChord, which has been involved in healthcare PR for just two years, will also handle US-specific promotion of GSK's approved
oncology portfolio. It could also turn to further affiliates in Japan, Australia and Sweden to promote GSK's oncology drugs outside the US, although no programmes are confirmed.

GSK, the world's second largest drugs company, is hoping to significantly improve its performance in the oncology market, where it currently sits in 11th place in terms of market share.

'As we increase our presence in the cancer product market there's obviously a need to communicate that presence,' said a GSK spokesman.

'Within the next few years we expect to be one of the bigger players in the oncology market.'

This month GSK unveiled the latest details on its oncology range that includes four drugs coming to the end of clinical trials.

Tykerb is the most promising, followed by Eltrombopag (to treat low-blood platelet levels), Casopitant (which treats the effects of chemotherapy), and Pazopanib (which blocks the production of blood vessels that feed tumours). All four are awaiting approval.

In August GSK made an equity investment in Adherex Technologies, which has a range of oncology products under development. The licensing and development agreement is intended to increase GSK's oncology market share.

Tykerb will enter a market dominated by Herceptin, the Roche breast cancer drug that made UK headlines in October.

Tonic CEO Scott Clark promoted Herceptin in its pre-launch phase at a previous agency.

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