EXPERTS: NEW CANCER DRUGS OFFER BETTER TREATMENT OPTIONS
The increasing number of innovative oncology drugs making it to market, or moving quickly through the pipeline, have offered cancer patients new treatment options and drugmakers new blockbuster opportunities, experts say.
Large pharmaceutical firms have bolstered their efforts recently to develop cancer therapies, as the market is wide open in terms of incrementally better treatments, according to a prominent pharmaceutical analyst. Scientific advances are driving much of the new development, said the analyst, who declined to be identified. But it's also being fueled by a pricing environment that appears very robust for these products.
"In the past, there were very few cancer products that reached and exceeded the billion dollar mark," the analyst said. "Now models out there suggest there's going to be multiple therapies reaching multibillion dollars in sales."
One product that is on pace to reach blockbuster status is the colorectal cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab), launched in February 2004 by Genentech and Roche. The drug generated U.S. sales of more than $448 million in the first half of 2005, and sales of Avastin in the second quarter of 2005 jumped 85 percent compared to the same period last year, Genentech said recently. The novel first-line treatment works by cutting off the blood supply to tumors.
Another promising product, the analyst said, is Pfizer's experimental drug Sutent (sunitinib malate), which is indicated for the treatment of stomach and kidney cancer. Pfizer recently filed a new drug application for Sutent, and the FDA has granted the product fast-track status. Combating renal cell cancer is a highly unmet medical need, the analyst said.
"Pfizer will be able to charge significantly for that product," he said, cautioning that Sutent's full financial potential depends on the level of competition. "There are other products that are expected to target renal cancer," he said. "It's hard to say at this stage, but based on what we know today, we believe Sutent will be a hit in the cancer market."
Other firms entering the cancer treatment arena include Eli Lilly, which last year launched Alimta (pemetrexed disodium), indicated for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer in previously treated patients. Alimta generated total sales of more than $111 million in the second quarter of 2005, up from $93.9 million in the first quarter of the year, Lilly said recently.
Meanwhile, the FDA's Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee is scheduled in September to take up four high-profile drug candidates, including Abbott Laboratories' experimental prostate cancer drug Xinlay (atrasentan), which has a proposed indication as a treatment for men with metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer, and GlaxoSmithKline's Arranon (nelarabine) injection, which has a proposed indication for the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia.