Collaboration – An Effective Strategy to Develop Impactful Oncology Drugs

Oncology drugs are used to treat various types of cancers. There are various types of oncology drugs used in chemotherapy, hormone therapies, biological therapies, immunotherapy, and bisphosphonates. Increasing incidence of cancer conditions, growing acceptance of advance therapies, and commercialization of advanced therapeutics are driving oncology drugs market. In addition, technological developments create new opportunities in research and development of drugs.

Development and commercialization of cancer therapies is difficult for small manufacturers. Geron Corporation, a biotech company from California has collaborated with Johnson & Johnson. The collaboration would benefit Geron in development of imetelstat, a drug which inhibits telomerase in cancer cells to limit tumor growth and raise its stock price. Johnson & Johnson paid $35 million to Geron for rights of imetelstat. They treated patients in September 2015 with two imetelstat dosage arms in an open-label study. If one of the dosage arms shows considerable level of safety and efficacy, they will take drug to phase 3 and commercial stages. 

Furthermore, they are developing IMbark to treat myelofibrosis patients using JAK inhibitors. Myelofibrosis is a rare blood cancer that affects nearly 13,000 patients in U.S. This gives an opportunity to J&J to develop first-in-class therapy for treatment of myelofibrosis. Geron has begun a study named IMerge to test imetelstat in patients with myelodysplastic disorders. Myelodysplastic is a condition in which bone marrow is unable to produce blood cells. IMerge will investigate imetelstat in patients who are unable to respond to erythropoiesis-stimulating agents. The success of these two trials would increase stock prices of Geron and benefit J&J to gain tremendous profit.

Ensemble Therapeutics, a biotech startup from Boston, is developing a group of cancer drugs. The company is focusing on research in fields, such as immuno-oncology and the ubiquitin-proteasome system, which is a garbage disposal system cells that is used to tag and trash unwanted proteins. It has disclosed that it is targeting enzymes IDO and TDO that suppresses response of immune system to cancer. The competition in development of IDO drugs is rising as Bristol-Myers, Roche, and Pfizer are also developing the drug. The company is devising various strategies, such as becoming an IPO candidate or an acquisition target, or merger to use development expertise of other companies.

According to an analysis of medical claims from commercial health plans, spending for outpatient cancer drugs is increasing. Manufacturers are charging more for drugs as hospitals are employing more oncologists, and consequently, average spending per person increases. Expensive drugs are entering the market and higher prices contribute to two-third of that spending increase. 

Rena Conti, an assistant professor of health policy at the University of Chicago is researching on healthcare financing and biopharmaceuticals. She said, “We're in this golden age of treating cancer. There are more and more options to treat the most common cancers.” It is observed that high cost of drugs does not deliver considerably better results. A study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology regarding comparison of two cancer drugs, bevacizumab and cetuximab. It found no difference in outcomes despite having a huge difference in costs. In order to ensure that patients get access to life saving treatments, insurers should take necessary steps to reduce spending. Moreover, collaborations would help manufacturers to increase expertise in research and development activities and reduce drug prices.

Analysts studying the oncology drugs market have presented thorough information about changing market dynamics in research reports. Recently, Allied Market Research has published a report titled, “World Oncology/Cancer Drugs Market - Opportunities and Forecasts, 2013 - 2020.” As per the report, the world oncology/cancer drugs market is estimated to register a CAGR of 7.1% from 2014 to 2020 and would reach at $111.9 billion by 2020. The report provides an extensive analysis of drivers & opportunities, detailed segmentation, and key manufacturers. Key findings about types & regions, classification, and applications of oncology drugs and value chain analysis are explored in the study.

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