By Caroline Chen – Bloomberg.
The hottest area in cancer drugs is going mainstream this year.
If 2014 proved that the most promising new group of oncology drugs in generations could work, 2015 brings a crowded field that sees winners and losers in a market eventually worth $30 billion a year or more in the next decade.
The treatments, known broadly as immunotherapies or immune-oncology, fall into two major categories — drugs that help take the brakes off the immune response, going after solid tumours like melanoma and lung cancer, and customised treatments that modify immune cells to combat blood malignancies.
“I think 2015 is the end of the beginning in the story of immunotherapy,” said Michael Giordano, head of development of oncology and immunology at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. “2015 will be a pivot point where I-O will be mainstreamed beyond melanoma and we’ll start seeing it approved and used in large tumours.”
There are 374 experimental cancer drugs in mid-stage trials, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics’ global outlook report published last year. That’s more than twice as many drugs as for nervous system disorders, for example. Of the experimental cancer drugs, about 25 percent to 30 percent are immunotherapies, according to IMS.
In trials, Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers’ drugs showed long-lasting effects in some patients that oncologists have called dramatic.
There a huge unmet medical need from patients, for whom many new treatments extend lives by years, rather than months. And the financial reward for drugmakers is huge. The drugs have annual costs of $150,000, and a slate of personalised treatments are expected to carry even higher price tags.
Kite Pharma Inc., Juno Therapeutics Inc. and Bluebird Bio Inc. have gathered interest from investors for their therapies to modify the immune system cells and retrain them to attack blood cancers, a technique known as CAR… read more.