The Boom in Drugs

About 400 cancer drugs from 178 companies are in clinical trials, according to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association. That is twice the number of drugs in trials for illnesses like Alzheimer's disease and depression and nearly three times as many as for heart attack and stroke.

For patients, the flood of drugs is generally good news because it means a better chance of finding one, or a combination, that will work for them. "From the standpoint of the patients there is never too many," said Dr. Robert J. Motzer, a kidney cancer specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Increased competition could also mean that drug companies will put more effort into reducing side effects. In the past, it was considered acceptable for drugs to have noxious side effects because cancer was a fatal disease.