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The European Medicines Agency: an overview of its mission, responsibilities, and recent initiatives in cancer drug regulation.

  • Pignatti, Francesco1
  • Gravanis, Iordanis
  • Herold, Ralf
  • Vamvakas, Spiros
  • Jonsson, Bertil
  • Marty, Michel
Published Article
Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research
Publication Date
Aug 15, 2011
DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-0623
PMID: 21844037


The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is responsible for the scientific evaluation of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the European Union (EU). Since 2005, the agency has become responsible for the approval of all new oncology drugs in the EU. In this article we describe the mission, role, and responsibilities of the EMA, and provide a brief summary of recent initiatives related to cancer drug regulation. The EMA recently published its Road Map to 2015. Over the next 5 years, the agency aims to continue to stimulate drug development in areas of unmet medical needs. Concerning drug safety, one of the priorities over the next few years will be to establish a more proactive approach in ensuring patient safety. This is the result of new EU legislation coming into force in 2012 that will strengthen the way the safety of medicines for human use is monitored in the EU. In terms of its general operation, the agency is committed to increased openness and transparency, and to build on its interactions with stakeholders, including members of academia, health care professionals, patients, and health technology assessment bodies. The agency recently created an oncology working party to expand the current guideline for the development and evaluation of cancer drugs. The guideline focuses on both exploratory and confirmatory studies for different types of agents. The current revision will address a number of topics, including the use of biomarkers as an integrated part of drug development and the use of progression-free survival as a primary endpoint in registration trials.

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