Over the years, peptides have been evolved as promising therapeutic agents in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases – and application of peptides in a variety of other therapeutic areas are growing rapidly. Currently, there are about 60 approved peptide drugs in the market generating an annual sale of more than $13 billion. Out of four peptides drugs in the market that have reached global sales over $1 billion, three peptides are used in treating cancer directly or in the treatment of episodes associated with certain tumors (leuprolide, goserelin, and octreotide).The number of peptide drugs entering clinical trials is increasing steadily; it was 1.2 per year in the 1970s, 4.6 per year in the 1980s, 9.7 per year in the 1990s and 16.8 per in 2000s. There are several hundred peptide candidates in the clinic and pre-clinic development. From 2000 onward, peptides entering clinical study were most frequently for indications of cancer (18%) and metabolic disorders (17%).
In conventional chemotherapy, the cancer cell-specific delivery of cytotoxic agents is difficult without affecting normal cells, which leads to systemic toxicity, causing undesirable severe side effects. “Molecularly targeted cancer therapies” using proteins, peptides, and related biomolecules are gaining momentum due to the possibility of improved drug potency and efficiency and minimal side effects. Peptides can be used as: direct anti-cancer drugs, cytotoxic drug carriers, vaccines, hormones, radio-nuclide carriers, and drug targets. Though shorter in vivo half-life of peptides is a concern, recent advances in drug delivery systems and peptide modification are expected to override those difficulties.
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