More cancer drugs submitted for federal approval

"There is greater understanding of some of the disease processes."

Pazdur's department has approved several cancer drugs ahead of its deadlines, Reuters reported.

"It is much easier to approve drugs that have greater efficacy," Pazdur said. "Our staff is interested getting the drugs out earlier ... it has to be drug that we really think is important."

At a recent meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, scientists noted several advances that have increased the sophistication of cancer treatments and reduced side effects. Of note are "smart" drugs that attack cancer cells but leave healthy ones alone.

Pazdur noted that "breakthrough drugs" require greater collaboration between regulators and manufacturers.

"When we are seeing drugs with a high degree of efficacy … it requires a different interaction with the companies," he said.

"We may change the registration strategy or the size of the trial."

The FDA will decide on an application for pertuzumab, designed for use in about 25 percent of breast cancer cases, by Friday.