- Tumors might be key to killing cancerous cells
- Understanding the body’s immune response helps in drug creation
- AstraZeneca tests immunotherapy drug for lung cancer
In 2020, the cancer immunotherapies market is forecasted to be valued at $75.8 billion, up from $16.9 billion in 2015, according to GBI Research. The market is growing at a compound annual growth rate (GAGR) of 23.9%.
Cancer is abnormal growth of cells caused by the failure of a number of cellular processes which allow the malignant cells to multiply quickly without cellular death. Scientistsbelieve many tumors express antigens which can be used to promote an anti-tumor response in the body.
Immunotherapies are designed to boost the body’s immune system so it can target cancerous cells. There are several types: those directed at tumor antigens, those targeting proteins to trigger cell death, cancer vaccines used to boost the immune system and non-specific immunotherapies used to boost the immune system.
Understanding the Immune System
DNA in cells might be the key to cancer treatments. According to a study published in the journal Science, DNA errors might hamper the body’s immune system from destroying cancerous cells. Normal cells have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Most cancerous cells have more or less than that.
The research suggests the DNA errors, called aneuploidy, are what allows cancerous cells to avoid detection by the immune system. Cells with a high level of aneuploidy divide and grow more quickly. Conversely, tumors lacked many immune cells. This suggests the immune system cannot fight cancer effectively because it does not detect these cells.
Researchers also found that patients with tumors exhibiting a high level of aneuploidy didn’t live for as long after treatment when compared to those with lower levels of aneuploidy.
The research could be used to determine which patients would benefit the most from immunotherapy.
Another study, published in the journal Cell, found immunotherapies were more successful when they triggered a body-wide immune response instead of a localized one.
This may explain why immunotherapies are successful against melanoma, but fail to successfully treat carcinomas, the most common form of cancer.
Lung Cancer Trial
British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca expanded its late-stage drug trail in January for its non-small-cell lung cancer immunotherapy MYSTIC. The purpose of the study is to compare the effectiveness of MYSTIC as a monotherapy and in combination with an inhibitor to two regimens of traditional chemotherapy. It has now expanded to examine not only effectiveness against tumors but patient survival rates.
MYSTIC will compete directly with Merck’s Keytruda.
Data will begin being collected in the summer and will continue through 2018.
- There are 2,037 cancer immunotherapy products in development
- The cancer types with the immunotherapy products in development are breast cancer, melanoma, non-small-cell lung cancer and ovarian cancer.
- The increase in immunotherapy drug development is caused by growing medical acceptance of these therapies. Pharmaceutical companies also are more willing to invest in new therapeutics to diversify their portfolios and differentiate themselves from competitors.