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Cancer Immunotherapy: An insight for investors

19/01/15


blog image Cancer has been a long-aged threat to human lives, and there hasn’t been any permanent or certain cure for it – though researches are still ongoing to find a permanent cure. For instance, in India alone, at least one million cases of cancer add up to the existing millions with over 60 percent mortality. While chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery seem to be the traditional cure for cancer – though not highly effective – a more effective alternative with high success rates seems to have been found. The discovery of immunotherapy has made it plausible to improve a cancer patient’s life due to its ability to boost the natural defences (that is, the immune system) of the body to fight cancer. Some types of immunotherapy include monoclonal antibodies, T-cell therapy, cancer vaccines, oncolytic therapy which uses viruses that are modified genetically to kill cancer cells, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) which is an immunotherapy used in treating bladder cancer; non-specific immunotherapies such as interferons and interleukins; checkpoint inhibitors; among others.
Even though cancer seems to be a curse, its gloomy tendency in the biotech market cannot be overemphasized. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States has approved immunotherapy drugs for the treatment of lung cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, melanoma, head and neck cancer, leukaemia, and lymphoma. According to the Financial Times, about 20% out of 30% of patients treated with immunotherapies responded well. The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) has revealed the potential of cell therapy medications (especially immunotherapy drugs) in treating other types of cancer, with more investment and time. In other words, immunotherapy has the potential to save millions of lives annually if pharma companies and individual investors invest more in it as immunotherapy treatments for other cancers such as pancreatic and breast cancer, etc. are currently in development.
Currently, only six immunotherapies are approved for use to treat cancer. Though it takes a while for organisations such as the Food and Drug Administration to approve new treatments, only a few pharmaceutical companies have shown a keen interest in investing in these novel treatments. The CRI has pegged immunotherapies trials that are currently in progress to about 3,000. Kymriah, presently in use for the treatment of leukaemia, was the first approved CAR-T cell therapy developed by Novartis AG. Despite its development costs running to about $1 billion, it still has a more substantial reward. The drug has been projected by analysts to make about $159 million revenues in 2018 alone and more in subsequent years.
The recent public offerings of companies such as Kite Pharma and Bluebird Bio are an attestation to the potential of the immunotherapy market as a growing area of interest for investors. The top six CAR-T companies were valued at about $962 million between 2013 and May 2015. Currently, these companies worth over $30 billion in combination. Thus, the reason for the growing interest in these companies has become abundantly clear. By 2020, the cancer treatment industry is projected to top about $150 billion. Therefore, real pharma giants now bank on immunotherapy as the current successful cancer solution.

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