A New Wave of Cancer Therapy

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A number of new cancer therapies that are more effective than existing ones have caught the interest of big pharmaceutical companies. The companies believe that they are one step closer to curing cancer.
Immuno-oncology(IO), which treats cancer by equipping tools to kill cancer cells, is emerging fast among the therapies.
Pharmaceutical Companies are in a race to develop the most efficient IO therapies, including Britain’s FTSE 100 giant AstraZeneca, America’s Merck & Co, Switzerland’s Roche and Germany’s Merck KGaA.
The therapy teaches body’s immune system how to fend off cancer like how it fends off a virus and develops a long-term memories for killing cancer cells.
Tens of thousands of patients are benefiting from the IO treatment and are able to live months or years longer without side effects than those who receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.
The “long term benefit” and “curative potential” excites Stuart Farrow, director of biology at Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm Cancer Research Technology, partnering with industry on developing IO treatments. He says:“It is the biggest breakthrough in oncology R&D for 20 years, possibly even since chemo.”
In addition to medical benefits, new IO treatments also bring big commercial rewards. IO drugs sales reached $8 billion last year, including Keytreda and Opdivo, produced by Merck & Co and BMS.
However, researchers think the potential prize is much larger, possibly a $50 billion a year market if the treatment reaches its full potential. There are huge gaps to plug in the market, for both Merck and BMS as well as their rivalries such as AstraZeneca. About 25 to 30 percent of patients have been responsive to the IO treatments. They also haven’t been approved for other types of cancer, such as lung cancer, the largest unmet-potential market opportunity, which is worth around $10 billion a year. Lung cancer also has the highest mortality rate, with more than 1.6m deaths every year. Big pharma companies are racing to get the highest response rate by trials of combinations of drugs.

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