How Did the Cancer Landscape Change in 2016?

Immunotherapies have improved survival in cancer patients.

Cancer care has been revolutionized over the past decade. The introduction of personalized drugs and immunotherapy has resulted in more patients receiving treatment, with significantly improved outcomes. Each year, cancer drugs account for a substantial amount of new approvals around the world, and there are currently hundreds of molecules in late-stage development.

A new report published by the QuintilesIMS Institute details how trends observed around the world in 2016 have played a role in shifting the cancer landscape.

Perhaps the biggest factor in the new world of cancer is the significant amount of drug approvals, which the report authors do not expect to slow down. Since 2011, 68 new drugs have received FDA approval for 22 indications, according to the report.

Innovation has also been a large driver of advanced cancer treatment, especially through the introduction of immunotherapy. The approval of PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors have caused widespread uptake in cancer treatment for numerous diseases.

The authors also found that new therapies for melanoma have nearly tripled the number of patients receiving treatment for the disease and nearly doubled survival rates for patients with metastatic disease.

Additionally, these new drugs for many cancers have resulted in better patient outcomes, as older therapies were not as effective and are more toxic.

In 2016, cancer therapy was redefined as treatment became more specialized and personalized, according to QuintilesIMS. While in the past, many different cancers were treated with the same drugs, advancements in medicine have led to the emergence of targeted therapies. The authors discovered that 87% of cancer drugs target specific pathways for subtypes of the disease and will continue to dominate the market, according to the report.

Despite the introduction of increasingly complex drugs, new oncology treatments are being implemented in clinical practice earlier than ever. The investigators found that the time from patent filing to regulatory approval has dropped from 10.25 years in 2013 to 9.8 years in 2016, QuintilesIMS reported.

More so now than in past years, cancer drugs are being approved quickly, and in numerous different countries. Between 2011 and 2015, there were 42 new cancer therapies launched around the world, with the United States dominating the market.

However, novel targeted therapies have been criticized in the United States for raising overall healthcare costs. Globally, oncology and supportive care drugs increased from $91 billion in 2012 to $113 billion in 2016, with the United States accounting for approximately 46% of total costs, according to the report. These high costs have resulted in the specialty pharmacy supply chain being looked at closely to determine what is driving these costs.

The authors predict that the introduction of novel therapeutics, longer duration of treatment, combination therapy, and multiple treatments will continue to increase oncology spending into the future.

Specifically, the cost growth in oncology is projected to remain at 6% to 9% through 2021 and exceed $147 billion worldwide, according to the study. This increase is expected to remain significant despite the introduction of more biosimilars to the global market, the report concluded.