Magazine Article | July 1, 2014

An Update On The Buzz Around Oncology

Source: Life Science Leader

By Kate Hammeke, Contributing Editor

The heightened interest in developing cancer treatments, combined with the R&D efforts put forth over the past decade, contributed to the emergence of a class of “smart bombs” first reported as one of their most hopeful developments at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in June of 2012. These medicines use antibodies that bond to specific cancer cells to deliver a very toxic drug directly to the cancerous cell, leaving healthy tissue alone.

In February of 2013, the FDA approved the first “smart bombs” to treat breast cancer, commercially known as Kadcyla and developed by Roche’s Genentech.

The second major development reported at the time was some degree of success in using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, an idea that has been around for a century, but training the immune system to recognize the cancer cells as an “enemy” to attack had previously met with limited success. At present, there are still no FDA-approved drugs on the market that work using immunotherapy, but evidence from clinical trials testing PD-1 (a protein) blocking  drugs have shown a “quantum leap” of progress. These potentially new kinds of  therapies, combined with progress in diagnostic tests that help predict which medicines will work for  which patients, are important tools in reducing cancer deaths and carry huge potential for the developers who bring them to market.

Eighteen oncology drugs were approved in 2012 (of 50 new drug approvals, including new molecular entities [NMEs] and biologic license applications [BLAs]), 12 in 2013 (of 41) and one so far in 2014. This success rate has remained steady for the past few years, where oncology drugs comprise roughly one-third of the new drugs approved, with 36 percent in 2012 and 29 percent in 2013. The large number of medicines being developed for oncology is no surprise, as cancer is still a leading cause of death in the United States, second only to heart disease. The vast market for cancer medicines has secured its position as a therapeutic area of focus for the drug development pipelines of 38 percent of all pharmaceutical and biotechnology businesses — up five percentage points in the past three years.

In looking at the various sponsor segments, the data shows that 53 percent of Big Pharma companies have oncology drugs in their development pipeline, up from 45 percent in 2012. Biotech follows with 37 percent, a slight drop from 40 percent in 2012. Specialty pharma and emerging biotechs have ramped up oncology drug development, with a six-percentage-point increase over 2012, both rising from 29 percent to 35 percent. Emerging Pharma companies An Update On The Buzz Around Oncology had the smallest increase in developing oncology drugs, with a three-percentage-point increase from 18 to 21 percent.

The results from the Nice Insight pharmaceutical and biotechnology outsourcing survey show that sponsors whose pipeline includes oncology medicines have broadened the base and are looking to outsource projects across an average of 3.5 different therapeutic areas of focus, up from 2.25 in 2012. These respondents were identified as heavy outsourcers in 2012, averaging 6.9 different  services, as compared to the overall average of 5.3. This continues to be true and has shown solid gains, with an average of 8.5 different services outsourced as compared to the overall average of 6.4.

This heavy outsourcing is still accompanied by substantial outsourcing expenditure; however, spending is not quite as high as it was in 2012 when 41% of businesses whose therapeutic area of focus is oncology diseases indicated they would spend more than $50M, as compared to 26 percent of the overall respondent group. In 2013, this number decreased to 34 percent, as compared to 24 percent of the overall respondent group. In 2014, 45 percent indicated their expenditure would be between $10M and $50M, as compared to two years ago when 36 percent fell into this category. The percentage of  respondents in the lowest-spending category remained the same — at 22 percent — from 2012 to 2014.These traits — significant expenditure and heavy outsourcing — give the group considerable influence   over the market size of the services they outsource. For this reason, among others, it pays to gain some traction in this therapeutic area. Four out of every five respondents prioritized a CMO’s “Track record/History of success” with the highest level of importance when considering an outsourcing partner. Further, therapeutic experience adds appeal to a CMO’s position as a strategic partner.

Survey Methodology: The Nice Insight Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Survey is deployed to outsourcing-facing pharmaceutical and biotechnology executives on an annual basis. The 2013-2014 report includes responses from 2,337 participants. The survey comprises more than 240 questions and randomly presents ~35 questions to each respondent in order to collect baseline information with respect to customer awareness and customer perceptions of the top 100+ CMOs and top 50+ CROs servicing the drug development cycle. Five levels of awareness, from “I’ve never heard of them” to “I’ve worked with them,” factor into the overall customer awareness score. The customer perception score is based on six drivers in outsourcing: Quality, Innovation, Regulatory Track Record, Affordability, Productivity and Reliability. In addition to measuring customer awareness and perception information on specifi c companies, the survey collects data on general outsourcing practices and preferences as well as barriers to strategic partnerships among buyers of outsourced services.