Report: Biopharma Companies Are Pursuing Innovative Cancer Treatments

Immunotherapy drugs take center stage

Survival rates for several major cancers have steadily improved over the last couple of decades, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Still, an annual report estimates that nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases will occur in 2017 in the United States, with close to 700,000 deaths. While early detection and the reduction of certain risk factors play a role in increased survival rates, so does the application of innovative therapies, according to a new report from NetworkNewsWire.

TapImmune, Pfizer, Celgene, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Clovis Oncology are among the many biopharma companies leading the pursuit of effective therapies with the potential to help increase cancer survival rates.

Emerging treatment options in the field of oncology include immunotherapy; pills for blood-based conditions, such as multiple myeloma; and drugs for skin, lung, and other cancers. According to QuintilesIMS, more than 70 new cancer treatments were developed during the past five years, demonstrating the global need for effective therapies.

Clinical-stage immuno-oncology company TapImmune has focused on the potential of immunotherapy for the treatment of ovarian and breast cancers. The company is developing two T-cell vaccine candidates (TPIV 200 and TPIV 110) aimed at overcoming the shortcomings of earlier vaccines. The technology platform behind these candidates combines proprietary sets of peptide antigens designed to stimulate both killer T-cell and helper T-cell immune responses against molecular targets associated with disease prognosis. The goal is to trigger a natural immune response against both the primary tumor and metastatic disease to help prevent cancer recurrence. The vaccines consist of naturally processed antigens from human immune responses recognized by more than 85% of the population, as well as a mix of class I and class II antigens.

TapImmune’s lead vaccine candidate, TPIV 200, is being evaluated in three phase 2 clinical studies, and the company anticipates initiating a fourth study later this year. In the completed phase 1 study, TPIV 200 demonstrated positive results that were published in the Journal of Oncology.

The company has also developed a proprietary preclinical technology called Poly Start, which can improve the efficacy of DNA-based immunotherapies by amplifying the target antigen’s visibility, the recognition of target cells, and the ability of a patient’s immune system to find and eliminate cancer cells.

Another leader in the pursuit of effective cancer immunotherapy drugs is Pfizer, which has developed an immunotherapy for Merkel cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer. In addition, the FDA is considering the use of this drug for bladder cancer. The treatment could eventually have applications in head-and-neck, stomach, kidney, and lung cancers as well. In 2016, Pfizer began investigating three new immunotherapy drugs in collaboration with several leading health organizations, using its own proprietary immunotherapy agnostic monoclonal antibodies.

Celgene developed lenalidomide (Revlimid), a thalidomide analogue that was approved by the FDA in 2005 for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Although the drug has been on the market for more than a decade, it experienced a 20% jump in sales in 2016. Celgene is also developing new drug candidates for treating diseases other than cancer.

Nivolumab (Opdivo), approved in 2014, was developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and is used to treat various types of cancer. The drug has been studied alongside standard types of chemotherapy. It didn’t outperform these types of care in clinical studies, but it was the first chemo-free treatment for lung cancer and remains a second-line therapy for that indication. Nivolumab is being explored as a treatment for head-and-neck, bladder, kidney, and skin cancers as well as lymphoma. BMS has also developed dasatinib (Sprycel), a leukemia drug, and elotuzumab (Empliciti), a monoclonal antibody for patients with relapsing multiple myeloma.

Clovis Oncology is the creator of rucaparib (Rubraca), a small-molecule poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor for advanced ovarian cancer in patients with certain BRCA gene mutations who have been treated with at least two other chemotherapy drugs. The treatment is also in clinical development for prostate cancer.

According to a study by QuintilesIMS, the global market for cancer treatments reached $107 billion in 2015. Thanks to an unprecedented number of treatment innovations, the market is expected to continue to grow by 7.5% to 10.5% each year, hitting $150 billion by 2020.

Source: NetworkNewsWire; April 6, 2017.